Saturday Sampler: May 13 — May 19

IMG_2187Andy Stanley continues to undermine the authority of Scripture, this time by teaching that Jesus and the apostles “unhitched” Christianity from the Old Testament. David Prince of Prince on Preaching refutes this ridiculous notion by writing A Response to Andy Stanley: Jesus and the Old Testament, What God has joined together, let man not separate.

For a more subtle response to Andy Stanley, wander over to The Cripplegate  to read Clint Archer’s post, Why Preach the Older Testament? Without mentioning Stanley directly, Archer clarifies why neither Testament should be “unhitched” from the other.

To demonstrate that Obedience Is Better than Sacrifice, Michelle Lesley draws from two instances in the life of King Saul to illustrate how churches in the 21st Century can disobey God even while thinking they worship Him. She makes a point worth considering.

Now I understand why the standard evangelical quip about God giving second chances rubs me the wrong way. Scott Slayton of One Degree To Another argues that God Doesn’t Give Second Chances by appealing to the Gospel and to God’s grace.

Refering to a Spurgeon quote that he saw on Twitter, Denny Burk has A word about criticism from anonymous sources that applies well in this age of social media. I’d been considering changing the name on my Twitter account from DebbieLynne Kespert to The Outspoken TULIP. Although The Outspoken TULIP is linked to my name, Burk’s article leads me to keep my real name, lest anyone think I’m leveling anonymous criticism when I confront worldly ideas.

I like Eric Davis’ post, Should I Stay Home from Church When Life Gets Hard? in The Cripplegate. It addresses the latest notion that emotional pain excuses people from corporate worship. It also admonishes pastors and elders to order church services around the Lord, explaining how doing so effectively ministers to all members of Christ’s body.

Leslie A admits it. It’s Not Just a Book! probably won’t be her most popular article on Growing 4 Life. But I agree with her that it’s probably one of the most important things she’s ever written. Therefore it saddens me that it won’t be popular.

Adding to my article on journaling (which I published Wednesday), Elizabeth Prata shares Thoughts on introspection and journaling in The End Time. She brings interesting insight into the discussion, causing me to wonder if more needs to be written about this topic.

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This Happens When Amy Spreeman Does A Podcast

I first wrote this article over a year ago, but needed to temporarily suspend it for personal reasons.

 

OpenBible John 1I just listened to a thought-provoking podcast from Fighting for the Faith, in which Amy Spreeman, Steve Kozar, and Chris Rosebrough discuss Discerning Discernment. Ladies,  my head is spinning right now, as I continue struggling with whether or not I classify as a “discernment blogger.” And whether or not I want to classify as a “discernment blogger.” And, most importantly, whether or not the Lord wants me to classify as a “discernment blogger.”

Discernment blogging used to carry a certain prestige in Reformed circles, as we saw various trends and evangelical celebrities corrode the Gospel by handling Scripture incorrectly and/or adding to it with subjective experiences and worldly philosophies. My regular readers will recall from my Autobiography With Purpose series that many of these doctrinal aberrations hindered my spiritual development for roughly four decades, which explains my passion for exposing doctrinal error now.

Then earlier this year, bloggers whom I highly respect began pulling back from discernment ministry. They correctly pointed out that this type of blogging often degenerates into scandal mongering gossip which depends on sensationalism to attract readers.  Admittedly, I’ve sometimes put Beth Moore’s name in blog post titles knowing full well that doing so would boost my readership. Cheap trick, but it works like a charm.

Amy made a comment on that Fighting for the Faith podcast that gave me a sense of balance in this whole debate over the legitimacy of discernment ministry. She remarked that our goal isn’t so much to call out false teachers and unbiblical practices in the Church as is is to draw people back to the authority of Scripture. So many popular evangelical teachers and practices distract people from properly reading and understanding the Word of God that we need to call professing Christians (both false converts and legitimate believers) to examine everything against the standard of Scripture. Even more, we need to remind them that the Lord reveals Himself in His Word.

The debate over whether or not discernment blogging constitutes appropriate ministry will continue. It raises important questions too numerous to explore today, and my small blog certainly can’t cast any decisive verdicts.

But I do believe this 63-year-old housewife from Massachusetts can use her past experiences with doctrinal error to guide younger women to better study of God’s Word. I make no claim of infallibility (and in fact plead with you to hold my writing up against Scripture to make sure I present Biblical ideas), but I desire to encourage women toward properly understanding sound doctrine . I’ve learned that Biblical doctrine is the only way any of us can know the Lord as He has revealed Himself, and that worshiping Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24) requires that we continually seek Him in the pages of Scripture.

Regardless of whether or not I can consider myself a “discernment blogger,” I pray that I can inspire women to open their Bibles and know the Lord Jesus Christ.  Discernment must have no other goal than to direct people to Him!

 

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When A White Woman Fears To Be Outspoken

Biblical UnityThis bout with writer’s block has nothing to do with a lack of ideas, but rather with a reluctance to write about the ideas I have. For instance,  last week’s MLK50 Conference, added to Beth Moore’s vague “repentance”  from racism a week earlier, have ignited my thoughts concerning the Social Gospel that some evangelicals embrace lately. Although I believe I should address these matters, I question whether or not I possess enough understanding of them to write a responsible essay.

Well, that’s only a partial truth. Yes, I’d like to do more research on the MLK50 Conference, since I don’t have first-hand knowledge of what the various speakers said. Reading reports on Twitter, even from reputable people that I trust isn’t responsible journalism, nor does it reflect Christian integrity. Just this morning, as a matter of fact, I read about the importance of guarding our words.

29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. ~~Ephesians 4:29-32 (ESV)

But my reticence goes deeper, to be perfectly honest. Now that the Social Gospel adherents have officially attached themselves to the hot potato issue of racism, there’s really no way a white woman can critique it without being accused of racism.

I could, I suppose, defend myself by telling you that my first fiance was black. During our engagement, we encountered more opposition from black people (including his pastor, who refused to acknowledge me) than from white people. Black women advised him to dump me and find a nice black girl. If that’s not racism, please tell me what is!

But my anecdotal evidence most likely wouldn’t convince anyone (and especially anyone on this current bandwagon) that I have valid reasons for challenging the Social Gospel. As far as evangelical social justice warriors are concerned, anything I write that raises questions about their efforts to end racism in the name of Jesus automatically brands me as a racist.

So I’m paralyzed. I do want to examine the Social Gospel from a Biblical perspective, primarily because I see a misplaced emphasis in their efforts. And I think, if this movement hadn’t lurched into the politically charged area of racism, I might have been able to write about it with confidence. But the MLK50  Confidence (and, to a lesser extent, Beth Moore’s “repentance” Tweets) have put me in a difficult position.

Perhaps I suffer from cowardice. Perhaps I should risk being misunderstood and maligned on this issue, just as I’ve risked it over other issues discussed in this blog. I won’t change the minds of evangelical social justice warriors anyway, but I might encourage others to put the focus back on Christ and His kingdom. After all, in His kingdom people of every race and ethnicity will join together in worshiping Him.

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Saturday Sampler: April 1 — April 7

Spring 2018 SamplerWhat do you call home? Sometimes (too often, actually) I tell folks that God made me for Boston. John Ellis, in his blog A Day in His Court, writes Rooted: A Christian’s Place to challenge that temporal perspective. But his rejoinder isn’t exactly what you probably think it is.

Starting with an account of John Hooper’s martyrdom under Bloody Mary, Clint Archer discusses Exquisite Tenderness – Being Christlike in the Crucible of Suffering for The Cripplegate, The main body of his post draws from Christ’s attitude during His crucifixion. It’s an uncomfortable post to read, but we certainly need its message as we face the growing threat of persecution in our own century.

In How to Cheat Death, Leslie A of  Growing 4 Life questions the power of a healthy diet. She sees a much more effective way of cheating death.

I remember the frustration of being single, and thus I feel concern for my unmarried sisters in Christ. Lisa Robinson, who blogs at Thinking and Living Theological Thoughts Out Loud, writes On kingdom seeking and stuff: a personal reflection to encourage other single women through the wonderful blessing God is working in her life.

Using Titus 2 as a  template, Amanda Walker shows us Six Habits Younger Women Need Older Women To Teach Them in Biblical Woman. Ladies, all of us can benefit from the reminders Amanda provides.

Although I don’t think I’ll close The Outspoken TULIP’s Facebook page quite yet, Stephen McAlpine’s When Facebook Falls Out of Like With Your Blog gives me something to ponder.  I understand that the growing censorship against Christians and conservatives in social media is minimal compared to the persecution Christians face in other parts of the world, but I believe we should be aware that we have limited time in which to proclaim the Gospel online. Let’s not waste it!

Also in this week’s The Cripplegate, Eric Davis writes Is the Bible Enough for Us? – Sufficiency as part of his series on God’s Word. My regular readers know how strongly I believe that the Bible provides absolutely everything we need to live in accordance with God’s will, so you’ll not be surprised by my recommendation of this post. Davis makes the case for the sufficiency of Scripture much better than I ever have.

Michael Coughlan’s thought-provoking piece, Sad Facts About Racism, adds needed perspective to the difficult conversation we’re having in our nation currently. He regularly contributes posts to Things Above Us.

If you struggle to distinguish between discernment ministry and “discernment ministry,” please read How To Do Online Discernment Ministry, Part 1 and How To Do Online Discernment Ministry, Part 2 by Elizabeth Prata in The End Time. Whether you aspire to write a discernment blog or you need help determining which blogs to trust, Elizabeth’s two essays can help you develop a good criteria for vetting discernment ministries.

At first, Stephen McAlpine’s title,  The Sex Pistols, The Bible and China, put me off. But as we think about the probability of persecution reaching American shores, this article offers encouragement and hope that the suppression of religious liberties might actually serve to further the Gospel!

I certainly have an abundance of links in this edition of Saturday Sampler, but I must include That’s Not How This Works by SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God. The practice she addresses reminds me of Thomas Jefferson, who reportedly took scissors to the parts of the Bible he didn’t like.

Finally, Jeff Robinson writes Jonathan Edwards and Why I am a Cessationist for Founders Ministries to help us evaluate the work of the Holy Spirit in revivals. He imports thoughts from Jonathan Edwards, who preached during the Great Awakening in the 18th Century.

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Blinking Cursors And Spiritual Urgency

Clock YellowMy  cursor blinks insistently on the blank page, scolding me for again waiting so late before beginning a blog post. I think back, with too much nostalgia, to the blog I used to write. It had  no real focus; I could write simply for the sake of writing, without bothering about staying on topic.

Ironically. I often blogged about not feeling like blogging.

With this blog, I supposedly have a focus. Within that focus, I can address a wide array of issues relating to Christian maturity as we face a growing probability of persecution for our faithfulness to the Lord and His Word. For that reason  I choose not to waste precious time and energy showcasing my writing abilities our playing with inconsequential thoughts just so I can check blogging off today’s list of chores.

A reader recently asked me to write more about myself. I’d love to! Being as narcissistic as everyone else online, I’d take great pleasure in rambling endlessly about my thoughts, my history and my hobbies. A few readers might even find such babble mildly interesting (though it puzzles me as to why they would).

Yet it seems to me that Christians waste far too much time using the tools of social media for frivolous pursuits and self-promotion when we have such a tiny window of time to use the Internet to share the Gospel and instruct each other in sound doctrine.

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. ~~Romans 13:11-14 (ESV)

Christ is returning at any moment, and the present state of the world leads me to believe that He will come within the next few decades. Yes, I could be wrong. But if I’m right, we have serious work to do. Why fritter away my blog posts trying to impress you with my command of the English language when I could direct your attention to the Lord Jesus Christ?  C’mon, really!

To be honest, I think I write better when I write for my selfish pleasure. But I don’t think that possibility ought to lure me away from using this blog to exalt and honor Christ. In the short run, I may compose something enjoyable to read that reflects back to me, but such an essay would certainly have no eternal value. Why should I waste my time on that nonsense when we have so little time left before Jesus is banned from social media.

My blinking cursor, with all its urgent impatience, reminds me that time passes rapidly. I wasted too much time in youth and middle age using my writing to draw attention to myself. Let this blinking cursor encourage me to invest in the treasures of eternity.

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Saturday Sampler: February 25 — March 3

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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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