Do You Have Time?

Life has a way of crowding out our time with the Lord. I know we all have occasional days when a prolonged Quiet Time certainly isn’t possible, and I believe the Lord doesn’t want to place us under a legalistic regimen. After all, legalism didn’t work  too well for the Pharisees, as you’ll recall.

At the same time, we can’t ignore the Lord and expect to grow spiritually. We need to invest in prayer, Bible Study and corporate worship, letting His Holy Spirit transform us through these practices. Consistency is the key to maintaining good spiritual health.

This week’s hymn reminds us, in the midst of summer activity, to keep Christ as our highest priority. While we will inevitably have days here and there when we honestly can’t engage in a full-blown Quiet Time, the overarching pattern of our lives should be one of devotion to knowing and obeying Him.

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Mom Always Said “Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right”

Bible RestoredI had today’s essay all planned. I wanted to demonstrate how professing Christians misuse a certain verse fragment to justify unbiblical approaches to prayer. I confidently typed out my introductory paragraphs, carefully setting the stage before I quoted the verse in context. I knew I was about to blow up arguments for using that particular verse as a defense for their practices.

A little too smugly for my own good, I put the passage up on my computer so I could copy and paste it into my blog post. I started reading from the beginning of the chapter. Oh my! I scurried into our bedroom, where John is lying down, and asked him to read the chapter. “Were we wrong?” I asked him.

We discussed the passage, and realized that we’d been interpreting it based on its immediate context, but not the context of the entire chapter. While we saw that it still doesn’t support contemplative prayer, neither does it contradict such practices as sharply as we had believed it did. As a matter of fact, we could understand how people would misapply it as a method of prayer.

I anticipate writing about the misapplication of the verse sometime in the future, but not until I study it more thoroughly. Obviously, I still don’t understand it as well as I thought I did. At least not in relation to prayer methodology. And quoting it out of context for the purpose of showing how others quote it out of context smacks of hypocrisy. The end never justifies the means.

This morning I read through several chapters of Proverbs. I kept running into verses about the importance of integrity. Let me quote just one of them:

Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
    but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. ~~Proverbs 28:18 (ESV)

Had I proceeded with my planned blog post, using only the immediate context of the verse in question to substantiate my point, someone would have discovered my dishonesty. Quite appropriately, they would have publicly exposed me. I’m aware, of course, that everybody makes innocent mistakes, but in this particular case I would have knowingly misrepresented Scripture.  As a result, I would have totally undermined my entire blog. Even worse, I would have dishonored the Lord Jesus Christ.

I set out to provide my readers with a lesson in Bible context. Instead the Lord gave me a much more profound lesson. Sisters, even when we stand against error, we have the responsibility to handle God’s Word properly and with reverence.

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A Prayer We All Should Pray

Recently I read that someone, in a critical tone, asked why so many Christian songs and hymns focus on the cross. I’m not quite sure what the point of the question was, so I’ll resist the temptation to speculate on the motives behind the question. But it saddens me that the person didn’t know how Christ’s atoning sacrifice has purchased God’s pardon, allowing wretched sinners like me to enter heaven to live eternally with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hymn writer Fanny Crosby certainly understood the value of the cross, as well as the necessity of constantly reminding ourselves that Christ’s work on it is the only basis for our salvation. In the hymn featured below, she prayed that Jesus would keep His cross always before her. Perhaps more  of us should pray that sort of prayer. And then sing hymns that remind us that we mustn’t glory in anything other than the cross.

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Saturday Sampler: April 30 — May 6

Sping LaceI’ve been angry at God. I admit that terrible fact with shame, grateful that He has forgiven my arrogance toward Him. So I wholeheartedly agree with Denny Burk’s blog post, It’s never right to be angry at God. Ever. His Biblical approach to this issue leads to practical counsel on dealing with suffering.

Rachel Miller, who authors Daughter of the Reformation, writes Policing the Blogosphere? We’ve Been Here Before as an intriguing response to the idea that women bloggers need more church oversight. I’m still weighing her assertions, but I found her parallels to the Reformation absolutely fascinating! Invest some time in this essay; you won’t regret it.

In her hard-hitting essay, “Sorry I Never Knew You” – Should we sing about God’s judgments?, Elizabeth Prata of The End Time challenges the prevailing reticence to preach and sing about eschatology. She includes the song, “Sorry I Never Knew You” by The Sego Brothers & Naomi. Even if Southern Gospel Music isn’t ordinarily your preference, please listen to this important song and consider the points Elizabeth makes.

Writing for The Cripplegate, Eric Davis enumerates Reasons to Avoid Churches Who Will Not Practice Church Discipline. He raises issues I’d never consciously considered, but that make perfect sense.  His article again assures me that I’m in a healthy, Biblical church with leadership that shepherds me well.

Like most Christians, I fight the temptation to take credit for my salvation. Tim Challies provides a wonderful antidote to that temptation. If Only I Had Been Saved By Merit! demonstrates how our corrupt natures would pervert God’s grace if we actually had a hand  in saving ourselves. I think I’m glad the Lord did all the work!

It’s fashionable to speak about social media with a hint of disdain in your voice. But Michelle Lesley, in 9 Ways Social Media Is a Blessing to Believers, reminds us that the Lord uses the Internet to do some pretty amazing things. Of course, I may be a tad biased regarding this topic — I met my husband online!

 

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Saturday Sampler: April 23 — April 29

Umbrella SamplerAs a Biblical response to Earth Day (a totally ridiculous celebration, anyway), John Ellis of PJ Media insists that Earth Day is Wrong: The Earth is Not Our Mother. It’s refreshing to see somebody take such a firm stand on this matter!

Women struggling with infertility rarely find helpful support from the church, as Rachel reminds us in her danielthree18 blog post, NIAW ’17: Sometimes? There’s Never a Pregnancy. Her heartbreaking article highlights the fact that theology based on positive thinking can cause incredible damage.

Learn to Discern: Philosophies in Opposition continues Leslie A’s series in her Growing 4 Life blog. Much of accepted evangelical thought has nothing to do with Biblical Christianity, and Leslie helps us see the contrast.

In an essay for Berean Research, Amy Spreeman writes about the Sufficiency of Scripture against 21st Century attempts to augment God’s Word. This piece walks us through Psalm 19:7-9 to demonstrate how the Bible speaks to every area of life.

Writing a guest post for Desiring God, 17-year-old Katherine Forster pleads, We Need More Bible in Youth Ministry. Kids know when adults shortchange them, so let’s stop entertaining them and start showing them respect. They really can study the Bible if we’ll just give them the chance!

Elizabeth Prata has no idea how some of her essays in The End Time speak to issues that have touched my life! Having spent 30 years in a church that constantly talked about “brokenness,” I read her blog post, I’m not broken, with great interest. You’ll appreciate Elizabeth’s Biblical approach to this matter.

I haven’t written about Hank Hanegraaff’s decision to join the Eastern Orthodox Church, but Michelle Lesley’s article, The Heart of the Hanegraaff Hubbub: Dethroning the God of Your Personal Experiences, captures the essence of the matter. Don’t miss this superb analysis of the situation!

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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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