Discernment

Discernment Resources Potpourri

discernment

There are scads of fantastic discernment resources out there. Here are a few good ones that have come across my desk in the past few weeks…

 

deadlydoctrine-01Tim Challies is running a really good series right now called Deadly Doctrines. “In a new series of articles, we will consider false doctrine, sound doctrine, and how to train ourselves to distinguish between them. We will see how God calls us to respond to false and sound doctrine, as well as false and sound teachers.”

 

download-1Here’s Sinclair Ferguson over at Ligonier with What is Discernment? “We are on our guard against being led astray by false teachers. But there is more to discernment than this. True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best.”

And, of course, Pastor Gabriel Hughes of When We Understand the Truth is always there with his awesome WWUTT teaching videos. Here’s What is Discernment?

 

And here is Essential Doctrines?:

 

Below is a screen shot from the the Essential Doctrines video that might be helpful to print out and keep in your Bible or use when you teach a Bible study. Each letter in the word “DOCTRINES” stands for a primary area of biblical doctrine. Any teaching that conflicts with what the Bible says on any of these points is heresy:

c2eurnduoaa18km(Note: “Eschatology” here does not mean a specific flavor of end times theology such as pre-trib, post-millennial, etc. It refers to the foundational, general doctrine that Christ will come again in final judgment and to claim His bride, the church.)

 

Hope y’all find these as helpful as I did!

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Is It OK for Christian Women to Wear Bikinis?

mailbag

 

Summer is just around the corner, so a lot of women will soon be shopping for swimwear. With regard to modesty- do you think it’s OK for Christian women to wear bikinis?

I’m trying to remember back to the days when I might have actually considered – without doubling over in laughter – wearing a bikini. It was a really long time ago. Young, svelte sisters, if I may bring you a bit of comfort- you won’t have to grapple with this question for the rest of your life. As your other older sisters and I can attest, one day, age-appropriateness, your figure, sun exposure, and the desire not to frighten people will make this decision for you long before you have to consider modesty as part of the equation. It’s one of the blessings of getting older.

Just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, let’s quickly define our terms. When I say “bikini,” I’m talking about the fabric equivalent of a bra and panties, not swimwear that covers a lot more yet comes in two pieces.

bikini-377488_1280women_in_bathing_suits_on_collaroy_beach_1908_photographed_by_colin_caird
     bikini                           not bikinis

Generally speaking, I don’t think bikinis are wise in public unless you’re wearing a shirt or some kind of cover up over it. I’m reluctant to make a hard and fast law about it, though, because, as I’m sure you’re aware, the Bible doesn’t say “Thou shalt not wear a bikini.” (My husband would like to chime in here and says, “However, if you and your husband have a private place for just the two of you to swim or sunbathe, go for it!” You’re welcome, guys.)

As with various other issues, the Bible gives us a general principle (in this case about dressing modestly) and we work out our own salvation in our own cultural context according to all pertinent biblical principles and our own consciences. A law is a fast and easy “yes” or “no” answer to our question- which is often what our flesh wants, because our flesh is lazy. But what God wants Christians to do is study His word about the issue, pray, and ask Him for wisdom to make a godly decision. When we work through this process, it helps us to develop a greater desire to be conformed to the image of Christ and to be obedient to Him. Let’s take a look at just one passage of Scripture that could be helpful in this regard:

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:3-8 

So, at first glance, you might wonder, “What in the world does this passage have to do with wearing a bikini?” It doesn’t have anything to do with the bikini itself, it zeros in on your heart (Why do you want to wear a bikini?) and your sanctification (Will wearing a bikini make me more Christlike?).

Verse 3a:
Examine your heart- could your motive for wearing a bikini be classified as selfish ambition or vain conceit? Is it possible you want to show your body off to men to appear desirable, or to women to make them jealous?

Verse 3b-4:
Is this a situation in which you should humble yourself and put the interests of those men who might be tempted to lust or those women who might be tempted to covet ahead of your own desire to appear attractive?

Verse 5:
Do you truly desire to have the same mindset as Christ- about this issue and all others?

Verse 6-8:
How did Jesus approach life, according to these verses? He set aside His own rights and privileges (6), He took on the role of a servant (7), He humbled Himself and was obedient to the point of death (8).

When it comes to wearing a bikini, are you willing to have the same mindset as Christ? To set aside your own rights and privileges, be a servant to others, humble yourself, and obey Christ even to the point of death?

These are not questions God wants me to answer for you. These are questions He wants you to come to Him and answer, because He wants your heart. And He wants you to examine your heart and see if it belongs to Him in this area.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Christian women, Women

6 Reasons Godly Women are Stronger Than Feminazis

I’m working on a project I’ve got to get done this week (prayer appreciated!), so I’ll be re-running a few favorite articles from the archives in lieu of new content.

Originally published June 12, 2015

feminazis

Gloria Steinem. Bra burning. The ERA. “I Am Woman Hear Me Roar.” Maybe you remember them, or have at least heard of them. That was the heyday of feminism. It was going to be a new era of strong, powerful women. And they’re still fighting the battle today. Never let a man get the upper hand. Sacrifice whatever you have to for a successful career. And Christian women who submit to their husbands or choose to stay home with their children are sneered at or dismissed as weak, barefoot and pregnant ignoramuses.

But as any woman brave enough to follow in the footsteps of Christ can tell you, it ain’t necessarily so. Secular feminists will never understand the kind of strength it takes to strive towards godly womanhood.

1. Only the strongest of women can voluntarily relinquish the right to be in control.

It’s easy (at least for decisive, type A control-freaks like me) to walk into a room assess a situation, lay down the law, and expect your instructions to be carried out. It’s much harder to step back and hand off the decision-making to your husband, or to offer your input and stand aside and watch when he decides not to follow it. But God expects us to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, who voluntarily surrendered control of His very life to the men who took it from Him.

2. It takes a strong woman to trust God enough to put her life and her children’s lives into her husband’s hands.

Let’s just get real here for a minute. It can be hard to trust God sometimes. Even though we know He is perfect and has our best interests at heart, we can’t see Him or touch Him. We can’t ask Him a question and get an audible yes or no answer.

It can be even harder to trust our husbands. Even though we can see, hear, touch, and talk to them, we know all too well that they’re fallible. Sometimes they have their own interests at heart. Sometimes they mean well and still make the wrong decisions.

But God tells us to trust Him. Even when it’s hard. Even when we don’t understand what’s going on. Even when we think we could lead better than our husbands. We trust God enough to obey His word even when.

3. It takes tremendous strength to control our mouths.

James tells us “no human being can tame the tongue,” and all who have tried know how true that statement is. Still, God expects godly women to control our speech. We’re not to nag and be quarrelsome. We’re to speak wisely and kindly. Sometimes, we’re not to speak at all, but let our actions do the talking. The strength to bite your tongue or think before you speak? It’s a daily trial by fire for Christian women.

4. Godly women have to be incredibly strong to deal with the heartaches that come our way.

John once said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4). While he was talking about his spiritual “children,” godly wives and mothers have that same joy when our husbands, children and loved ones are walking in the truth of the gospel. And unspeakable agony when they are not. We not only have to cope with the regular griefs of life that everyone experiences, we also must deal with the pain of those closest to us who rebel against Christ and His word, all the while trusting God and walking in His ways.

5. We must develop the godly strength it takes to stand against the culture.

It’s easy to do the godly thing when everybody’s rooting for you, but in a society that is openly hostile to biblical womanhood, we often (sadly, even in the church) find ourselves fighting our way upstream like so many spawning salmon. Many times, we are seen as – and called – doormats, uneducated, gullible, traitors to the cause of women’s rights. We must rely on the strength God has promised us to stand for godliness in the face of opposition.

6. Only strong, godly women can joyfully deny self and serve rather than being served.

In a “because you’re worth it” world, putting our own desires aside to serve our husbands, children, and others is utterly incomprehensible to many, and, often, even to ourselves. The flesh rears its ugly head again and again, demanding to have its every wish fulfilled by the very people God put us here to serve. It takes a mighty woman of God to do battle with that enemy, send it packing, humble herself, and tend to the needs of others. But we have been bought by the blood of a Savior who declared that He “came not to be served but to serve,” and we conform to His wishes, not our own.

 

They can push and nag and argue and boss and control. They can be soldiers, construction workers, CEOs, and President. They can wear the pants in their families and have cowed husbands. But the shrillest of feminazis will never know the strength it takes to be a godly woman, because what they’re attempting is miniscule compared to the high standard God calls His daughters to. And any fleshly strength they can conjure up couldn’t in a million eternities touch the supernatural, mighty, rushing force that is the power of the Holy Spirit which God promises to His own, enabling us to say, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

God doesn’t call us to have dominance over men, He calls us to become like a man, the God-man, Jesus Christ. And in our feebleness and brokenness, He gives us the power to attempt that feat of greatness for His glory. That, my sisters, is where real strength lies.

Bible Study

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

I’m working on a project I’ve got to get done this week (prayer appreciated!), so I’ll be re-running a few favorite articles from the archives in lieu of new content.

I sincerely apologize to those who were waiting for the last lesson of The Ten this week. Couldn’t be helped. We’ll have to do it next week. I hope you’ll enjoy this article from April 22, 2016 on studying your Bible.

plain vanilla

Baskin Robbins is one of my favorite places to get ice cream. Not only is their ice cream good, but they boast a plethora of flavors to choose from. I love to start at one end of the counter and work my way through all their offerings, getting a little “taste spoon” here and there if a particular flavor piques my interest.

Flavor_Enlarged_Peanutbutter'nChocolate2
Photo courtesy of BaskinRobbins.com.

Having a myriad of options is great when it comes to ice cream, but when it comes to studying the Bible, the tsunami of materials, methods, and other choices out there can be overwhelming. Where do I start? How do I know if a certain Bible study book or teacher is doctrinally sound? Is the study method I’m using in line with good hermeneutics?

It can be enough to make you throw your hands up in the air and head for your local Thirty One Flavors to drown your sorrows in Peanut Butter ‘N Chocolate.

Sometimes it can help to get back to plain old, simple, vanilla Bible study. I’ve been saying for a while now that Christian women should, for the most part, put all the “canned” Bible study books, workbooks, and DVDs aside and simply pick up their Bibles and study them in a systematic way. After all, up until somewhere near the latter half of the 20th century, that’s generally how people studied the Bible. And it worked. People grew in their faith to godly maturity just fine. So, why can’t it work today?

It can. It does. It will.

Unfortunately, the blessing of lots of options, methods, resources, and information, and the marketing of that blessing by celebrity Christians and Christian retailing, has bred a generation of Christian women who are fearful that they aren’t as smart or as capable of reading and understanding God’s word as all the “experts” out there. They look at the simplicity of picking up their Bibles and studying them like calves looking worriedly at a new gate.

“What does that mean?”

“How do I do that?”

“I’m scared I’ll get it wrong!”

It absolutely breaks my heart to hear this angst from women who, I’m certain, genuinely want to study God’s word correctly so that they can know Him better and grow in their faith. And it makes me livid at the churches who haven’t trained them properly, the plantation-style women’s “Bible study” marketing that has kept them ignorant and dependent slaves to Christian retailers, and whatever other forces have conspired to keep these precious ladies away from the pure milk of the word.

So let’s reboot, get back to basics, and get as many women digging into the Word as possible.

First, it’s important to start out with a biblical perspective:

1. God is kind, and He loves you.

Yeah, I know, that’s pretty basic. But it’s worth bringing to the forefront for this discussion. This is a God who loves you and wants you to know Him. He has revealed Himself to you through creation, through Christ, and through His written word. He has indwelt you as a believer with the Holy Spirit to help you understand Scripture. He has told you that you can ask for wisdom and promises to provide it. In His kindness God has bent over backwards to provide you with ways to know Him. He is not some mean ogre sitting up there just waiting for you to get something wrong so He can chastise you. He wants you to understand His word.

2. The Perspicuity of Scripture

There’s this really great, comforting, reassuring doctrine called the perspicuity of Scripture. The gist of it is that Scripture is, for the most part, clear and understandable, especially for believers, because of the aforementioned indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But even lost people tend to understand a lot of what Scripture says (that’s why you hear so many of them arguing against it – they couldn’t do that if they didn’t at least partially understand it).

So, by and large, if you’re reading the Bible in an orderly way you should be able to understand it fairly well. You don’t have to have a seminary degree or be an “expert.” There are dirt farmers and country preachers out there who have a better grasp of Scripture than some celebrity pastors in multi-million dollar churches with thousands of congregants, and a string of seminary degrees behind their names.

OK, now that we have a biblical perspective on studying the Bible, how do we do it in a systematic or orderly way?

3. Pray

Don’t see this as childish or unimportant and skip it. Start your Bible study time by asking God to help you understand His word, to learn what He wants you to learn from it, and to obey its instruction. Even if you’re pretty well versed in the Scriptures, praying like this before opening God’s word will remind you of its holiness and your proper place of humility and submission to it.

bible-1089968_12804. Read the Bible the way you would any other book.

When you pick up a novel, do you read one sentence out of the middle of chapter 4, followed, the next day, by a paragraph from chapter 37, and, the next day, a couple of lines from chapter 1? Of course not. You wouldn’t know what was going on and what the characters meant by what they were saying. If you wouldn’t read something as inconsequential as a novel this way, why would you read the Bible in such a haphazard manner? Yet this is precisely the way people often approach daily Bible study.

My pastor said something awesome about this in his sermon the other day:

The Bible isn’t Google for self-help.

And he’s so right. We don’t just parachute in to a random passage, hoping to glean a nugget of truth. Pick a book of the Bible (maybe Genesis or one of the gospels if you’re new to all this), start at the beginning, and read a little each day until you reach the end. It’s really that simple.

5. Context, context, context

It’s important to read and understand Scripture in its context: how a verse fits with the verses immediately surrounding it, within its chapter, within its book, and within the overarching narrative of the Bible. This is really the biggest key to comprehending Scripture. Fortunately, the main way to do this is by reading the Bible in an orderly way (see #4- You did already read #4, right?)

Another invaluable practice is to make use of the cross-references and footnotes in your Bible. Cross-references will help you get a better idea of how the passage you’re reading fits together with other, related passages. Footnotes are there to add a touch of clarity to particular words and passages.

6. Get a plan, Fran.

If structure helps you, choose a good Bible reading plan. For the beginner, start off with one of the shorter plans so you won’t get overwhelmed. When you’re ready, I highly recommend the chronological plan. It is extremely helpful for learning the big picture of Scripture.

If you decide to choose a reading plan, though, hold its schedule loosely and don’t be beholden to its time frame. Work through the readings at your own pace. Take the time to let the Scriptures sink in and spend as long as you need to on any given section. God doesn’t give gold stars for finishing the Bible in a year.

7. Understand the background and setting.

There are some passages in Scripture that are a little more difficult to understand if you don’t know the customs of the time or what was going on historically and politically. In these cases a good study Bible, commentary, and other resources can be beneficial. I’ve touched on the specifics of some of these resources here. Many of these helpful materials can be found on-line for free.

8. Take notes on the text.

Hmm…an orderly method of reading…footnotes…extra resources…taking notes…this is starting to sound like…well…studying! Yep, that’s the idea. Isn’t it interesting that we often take a more serious and scholarly approach to studying for a class or a test than we do to studying our Bibles?

If you were a better student than I was in high school and college, you probably took notes on your text books as you read them. You wrote down things you wanted to remember, things that seemed important, things you didn’t understand and wanted to work on more later, things that were especially meaningful, even questions that occurred to you. Those are all good things to write down as you study your Bible, as well.

presenter-1206345_12809. Listen to good preaching.

As a Christian, you should already be doing this at least weekly at the church you’re a member of. But try to sneak in some extra listening – to your own pastor or another doctrinally sound pastor – as often as you can during the week. Listening to someone rightly handle and explain God’s word helps you to understand it and trains you to rightly handle it yourself as you study.

I once read that children who read a lot are better spellers. Not because they study spelling more, but because they’re exposed to more words and have the correct spelling of words constantly in front of their eyes. They sort of soak up good spelling by osmosis, and when it’s time for the spelling test, they simply write down what they’ve absorbed. Listening to good, expository preaching can have the same kind of helpful impact on your Bible study skills.

10. Practice makes perfect.

Studying the Bible is just like any other skill. You’ll probably fumble around a good bit when you’re first getting started, but if you stick to it, you’ll find that it gets easier and you get better at it as time goes by. Don’t be afraid to start. Jump right in there and try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

 

Ladies, simply picking up the Bible and studying it each day is such a joy. I have been doing it for years, and I love it. The excitement of “digging for buried treasure” in God’s word and uncovering the truths of Scripture for myself has been far more meaningful to me and has grown me so much more than any workbook or curriculum I’ve ever used. I hope you’ll put aside your book studies and devotionals, and give it a try yourself!

Church

Church Leadership Qualifications: Biblical or Pragmatic?

leadership-1959544_1280

When it comes to leadership positions in the church we often get ourselves into unnecessarily sticky situations because we put practical considerations – who is available, who is most talented, who is willing, etc. – above biblical qualifications.
When we fill a position of leadership or responsibility at church we first go to Scripture to find out if the person we’re considering for the position is biblically qualified to hold it. Practical considerations come second. A few examples:

1.

An elder or deacon just died and the church needs someone to replace him. The first place you go is 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and you start by weeding out the men who don’t fit those qualifications. It doesn’t matter how willing they are or how great of a job they would do or what kind of connections they have or how much money they could bring into the church, they have to meet the biblical qualifications first.

2.

Your church is located near a neighborhood full of Chinese immigrants, most of whom don’t speak English. Someone comes up with the commendable, Great Commission-honoring idea to start a Bible study to reach out to the men and women of this community. The only person in your church who speaks Chinese is a woman, so she’s the natural choice to teach the class, right?

Wrong. We start with the biblical qualifications for teachers, and one of them (1 Timothy 2:12) is that women are not to teach men. She could certainly teach (assuming she is able to teach – language alone doesn’t make someone a good teacher) a women’s class, or a male could teach the class in English and she could translate, or a man could take the time to learn Chinese before the church begins offering the class, or if there is a Chinese man in the class who is able to teach, he could teach the men and she could teach the women. But the woman doesn’t teach a co-ed class herself because Scripture forbids this.

3.

A young couple starts attending your church. After a few months, they step up and say they’d like to sing on the worship team. They’ve both got great voices and would radically improve the quality of the music on Sunday mornings. As you chat with them about joining the team, you find out they’re living together (unmarried). They’re both well aware that this is sin, but disagree with what the Bible says about adultery and fornication and have no intention of repenting, marrying, or moving out. Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 are quite clear that people who continue in rebellion after being called to repent are not even to be members of the church, let alone lead in worship.

Remember that the practical way is not always God’s way. Remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). Remember that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12). Remember when Saul did what was good in his own eyes instead of obeying God’s word (1 Samuel 15). Remember what happened to Nadab and Abihu when they conducted worship their own way instead of God’s way (Leviticus 10:1-6).

Obeying God’s word is not always easy, practical, or convenient, but it is always best, biblical, and blessed.