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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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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Internet Worship Only Goes So Far


For the first time in eight weeks, weather allowed me and John to attend church yesterday. Extreme temperatures affect our breathing, as well as causing my muscles to contract more than usual, so we’re pretty much confined to our apartment each winter. Yesterday was unusually warm for a New England January day, so we joyfully took advantage of the opportunity to worship with our church family.

The Lord extends amazing grace to us when weather forces us to stay home on Sundays. Daily devotions as a couple, personal Bible study and prayer, podcasts, YouTube videos, interactions with Christians on Facebook and Twitter and reading other blogs has helped us through the isolation from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Astounding though it may seem, I believe we’ve both grown spiritually during this past two months.

However (and please hear me on this matter), returning to church yesterday reminded us that we desperately need corporate worship. Missing church ought only be done when absolutely unavoidable. Watching a streaming church service may be helpful, but it doesn’t provide the wonderful fellowship of worshiping with people you know and love.

You see, I’ve made investments in people at First Baptist Church Weymouth. I know some of their children, and I know others’ struggles. I’ve prayed for unsaved family members, for God to bring spouses, for pregnancies and graduations. I can look across the Sunday School room and tell when certain people are gearing up to crack a joke. They can all tell when John is gearing up to crack a joke.

More importantly, we can talk deeply about the Lord, reminding each other of sermons we’ve heard together and songs we’ve sung together. His Spirit draws us together through the Word preached to us, and we grow as one body intent on following the Lord. We love Him by demonstrating love toward each other.

The best part of our annual winter exile is returning to church and seeing how profoundly we belong to those dear people. I praise God for the sound Biblical teaching He makes available online, and for my online Christian friends. But, oh Auntie Em, there’s no place like church!

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Saturday Sampler: January 21 — January 27

Wings on Hearts

Using godly wisdom, Tim Challies offers Seven Thoughts on the Billy Graham / Mike Pence Rule that make better sense than anything else I’ve read on the topic. He applies both Scripture and common sense application of Scripture artfully, reminding all of us that we are accountable, first and foremost, to the Lord.

Consider reading What Does Your Love for Self Cause You to Do (or Not Do)? in Leslie A’s Growing 4 Life blog. Okay, she says a lot of really uncomfortable things — all of which indicate that she uses Biblical wisdom with precision.

I love Julie Ganschow’s compassion and wisdom in Dear Post Abortive Sister, On the Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Appearing in Biblical Counseling for Women, this article empathizes with women who have terminated pregnancies and gently leads them to the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ.

The arguing over whether or not women should be pastors annoys me. So I appreciate Denny Burk for writing A mere complementarian reading of the most contested verse in the evangelical gender debate — 1 Timothy 2:12 to explain the clear meaning of the verse. People, this isn’t rocket science!

In Is It Possible for Christians to Idolize the Bible?, Tom Olson takes on the current attitude that we should focus less on Scripture and more on Jesus. His article, which appears in Unlocking The Bible, addresses this attitude fairly and wisely. Please make time to read it.

Secular media is abundantly reporting the story of Larry Nassar, the doctor for the U.S. Gymnastics Team convicted of molesting over 150 little girls. The media, however, is downplaying the victim impact statement of Rachel Denhollander, the woman who made the first accusation. Why? Most likely because of her stunning presentation of the Gospel. Thankfully, Todd Pruitt of Mortification of  Spin provides both the transcript and the video in his post, Law and Gospel in Judge Aquilina’s Court.

Writing for For The Church, Lara d’Entremont teaches us How to Be Both a Grace-Filled and Discerning Church Member. We sure need to implement her advice in this climate of bickering among self-proclaimed discernment ministries.

Cell phones bug me. So I really love Allen Cagle’s piece, Deep Growth in a Shallow World, which Parking Space 23 features. His counsel isn’t especially ground breaking, but it gets terribly neglected in this digital age.

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A Less Popular Approach To Discernment Ministry

Intricate Boarder 03When I started The Outspoken TULIP, I considered myself a discernment blogger because I named false teachers. Frequently.  At the time, I believed doing so was necessary because so many Christian women fell for popular teachers who characteristically mishandle God’s Word and promote errors like mysticism and self-esteem.

Sadly, even excellent pastors who preach solid, expositional sermons neglect to warn women about these teachers, and consequently women (even women in the best Bible-believing churches) erect War Rooms and claim that God speaks to them personally. So yes, the Church does need people who will expose false teaching and even call out false teachers.

Did you know that all but one of the New Testament epistles deal with false teaching in the First Century Church? Neither did I, until a few years ago.  Momentarily, I want to tell you why we seldom recognize these letters as corrective tools against error, but right now I want to acknowledge that, from the very beginning of church history, false teaching was a dominant problem. My longtime readers will recall that Jude found this matter so pressing that it kept him from writing about the subject nearest to his heart.

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)

So okay, there’s Biblical precedent for identifying false teachers. And all too often, it’s even necessary, as in Jude’s case. In reassessing the role of discernment ministry in the Church, therefore, I’m by no means implying that we should ignore the tremendous impact that false teaching has on evangelicals.

But lately many discernment ministries (particularly online blogs and podcasts) have become downright nasty. The obvious intent to ruin reputations and unearth salacious details has become obsessive, while there seems to be precious little genuine pleading for these teachers, or even their followers, to repent and find restoration in the Lord.

We in the discernment community forget that the New Testament epistles typically address false teaching by offering correct teaching rather than evaluating all the points of the heresies that prompted each letter. And while Paul and John certainly do name names, they do it very sparingly (Paul mostly does it in his letters to Timothy, not in his general epistles). For that reason, we have trouble understanding the epistles as refutations against false teaching.

Most reputable discernment bloggers agree that 21st Century evangelicals show an increasing susceptibility to false teaching because of Biblical illiteracy. This being the case, shouldn’t we follow the Biblical model of combating false teaching with sound doctrine, directly confronting error gently and only when necessary? This isn’t a popular approach to discernment ministry, I realize, but it may be worth consideration.

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Writing: A Pleasure And A Responsibility

Header May 2013

Sometimes a writer writes simply for the fun of manipulating language. We take pleasure in the cadences of sentences and the textures of words. It delights us when a nimble vocabulary tames otherwise nebulous ideas, communicating them to anyone who bothers to read them. And if nobody reads them, we still savor the heady  experience of shaping words, sentences and paragraphs into something lovely.

Writing for its own sake has the advantage of training a writer how to develop his or her craft. The practice helps us fall in love with writing. That sense of romance in turn carries us through the difficult aspects of writing. When we strain for just the right way to phrase a concept, staring at an impatiently blinking cursor, we feel such exhilaration when the stubborn words suddenly decide to cooperate with us. Without the love of writing, we’d give up and find a mind numbing app to keep us unprofitably entertained.

Therefore, a moderate amount of writing merely to enjoy the act of bending language to one’s purpose has merit. It should not be shunned as frivolous or wasteful, but instead harnessed as a valuable tool in learning to use language efficiently.

That said, a Christian writer must indulge in writing for the sake of writing sparingly. A few exercises will renew our pleasure in the task, but it mustn’t distract us from our job of communicating the Gospel as long as the powers that govern the Internet allow us to do so.

15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. ~~Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

Ladies, it doesn’t take a prophet to see that American Christians won’t have freedom to express Biblical views online much longer.  Major social media platforms have already begun clamping down on people who don’t embrace homosexuality as a positive sexual expression. In time (maybe less time than we imagine), any sort of writing about the Lord Jesus Christ that exalts Him will not be tolerated.

We actually shouldn’t find this prospect all that surprising. Jesus bluntly stated that we would be hatred because we represent Him (John 15:18-21). The United States Constitution may promise religions liberty, but the Holy Spirit assures us of persecution (2 Timothy 2:12). The time for blogging about the Lord grows extremely short, and we should expect as much.

But rather than bemoaning our impending loss of liberty, Christian writers should use their writing abilities as frequently and earnestly as we can to build God’s kingdom. We’ve been given only a few short years to proclaim the Gospel on social media, and it would be tragic to spend those years writing only to enjoy the fun of playing with language.

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Insisting That God Speaks Apart From His Word

God's MegaphoneStarting off the New Year with an intestinal bug that results in minor (but headache inducing) dehydration sorta makes blog post ideas fly out the window, ya know? So now I sit at my computer keyboard, scrambling to recall the great ideas I had during a couple separate but loosely related Twitter debates I engaged in over the weekend.

I know — arguing on Twitter accomplishes little. The utter frustration probably lowered my resistance to the stomach ailment that decimated my yesterday, and I certainly didn’t persuade either of my opponents to rethink their positions.

Both conversations centered on the sufficiency of Scripture, with my opponents vigorously objecting to the proposition that God now speaks exclusively through the Bible. Both people claim to be Christians. And maybe they are, just as I was during the years I subscribed to Charismatic theology. I don’t  believe I can judge the genuineness of their salvation based on brief Twitter exchanges. But I do find it disturbing that people who profess to be Christians demonstrate such hostility to the statement that God speaks exclusively through the pages of the Bible.

One of them admitted that she wanted more than God’s Word offers.

Certainly, Scripture does seem limited sometimes. When we face major decisions or suffer heart rending tragedy, we want God to whip out His megaphone and speak directly to us. After all, He spoke personally to people in the Bible. Just this morning, as a matter of fact, I read several conversations He had with Abraham. If He spoke directly to Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, why shouldn’t He speak directly to us?

Answering that question would require multiple blog posts. And writing even one such post when I still feel tired from yesterday’s tussle with whatever bug assailed me really doesn’t appeal to me at the moment. It’s a valid question that deserves a thoughtful answer. I’d prefer to approach it when I feel healthier.

I would, however, like to address my dismay that so many evangelicals in our day do expect direct revelations from God. This expectation no longer confines itself to Charismatic circles, which further distresses me. We’ve forgotten that the Holy Spirit gives us everything we need through His Word.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

“That the man of God may be complete,” it says. Doesn’t that phrase imply that we don’t need mystical experiences or extrabiblical words from God?

Although the Church faces threats from those outside its walls, it faces even greater threat from false teachings within those walls. And every one of those false teachings in some sense challenge the sufficiency of Scripture. Consequently, we have a responsibility to stand firmly on the knowledge that we have everything we need in the Word of God. Applying His Word to our individual circumstances admittedly takes patient study, but the Lord will faithfully use it to teach, rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness. What more could we possibly need?

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