Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds ~ October 2, 2018

Here are a few of my favorite recent online finds…

This is the first article I’ve read at Natasha Crain’s blog, so I’m not very familiar with her, but if 10 Signs the Christian Authors You’re Following are (Subtly) Teaching Unbiblical Ideas is indicative of her theology, she’s a keeper. Most of what Natasha writes is on parenting, but this is a helpful discernment article. “Be vigilant. Test everything. And hold fast to what is good and true.”

 

In my article Churchmanship 101: Training Your Child to Behave in Church, I suggest several ways you can teach small (and older) children to “take notes” in church. Recently, I came across these awesome sermon notes pages that incorporate some of those ideas. They are free to download and print out. Maybe your church would even like to make them available on Sundays! Sermon Notes for Younger Kids and Sermon Notes for Older Kids.

 

Before I became a stay at home mom, I was a professional in the field of Deaf Education. It really taught me to be more aware of barriers we can place in the way of someone with a disability. I thought these articles, 3 Barriers Keeping the Disabled from Church, and 10 Things You Should Know about Discipling People with Special Needs, were helpful reminders to be aware of the needs of our brothers and sisters in our church families and the ways we can be a help to them rather than a hindrance.

 

Here’s a great little app! “Looking for a simple way to pray for persecuted Christians in need around the world? Pray for the Persecuted Church will send you regular, specific prayer requests submitted by Christian leaders, field staff and partners living out their faith in the world’s most difficult places. This app allows you to quickly scroll through the prayer request from one screen and then click ‘I prayed’ to let persecuted Christians know that you’re standing with them in prayer.”

 

“’If the claimed revelation/vision is not taken as authoritative or infallible, but just meant for encouragement, then what harm is there in that?’ While it is true that most cautious continuationists (e.g. Wayne Grudem) would agree that the claims of prophecy today are not authoritative or infallible in the way biblical revelation is, there is still harm in having this type of practice in churches.” Check out Clint Archer’s excellent article over at The Cripplegate entitled Are claims of supernatural experience really that harmful?

False Doctrine, Word of Faith Movement

Throwback Thursday ~ I Beg Your Pardon? I Never Promised you a Rose Garden.

Originally published February 5, 2009

I once heard a pastor say that a gospel that doesn’t work everywhere is a gospel that doesn’t work anywhere. He was referring to the so-called “prosperity gospel” that seems to be gaining momentum in the U.S.

If you’re not familiar with this movement, the basic idea is that, if you just have enough faith and/or sow enough seed (i.e. send money to a certain “ministry”) God will bless you with wealth, new cars, new houses, etc. It must work, right? The pastors who push this “name it and claim it” (or as someone I know puts it: “blab it and grab it”) crack “gospel” certainly seem to be doing well financially.

The problem is, it doesn’t work for everyone. How did it work for Paul? What about John? Stephen? Peter and the other apostles? Certainly, they were faithful and gave everything for the cause of Christ, and what did it get them while they were here? What about Christians in India, China, parts of Africa, parts of the Middle East, and many other places today? They are being tortured, imprisoned and even killed for following Christ. Where is their health, wealth, and prosperity?

The fact is, God has not called us to a life of ease. He has not called us to life at all, but to death. Death to self, death to pride, death to greed:

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Luke 9:23

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:12-13

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Matthew 6:24

God never promised us a rose garden. He promised us that if we follow Christ, we will be persecuted and hated. Wow, just when you thought witnessing couldn’t get any harder! What a selling point for Christianity! But this is what our brothers and sisters across the globe face every day. Many of them, when they make a commitment to follow Christ, are signing their own death warrants.

What God has promised is so much better than material wealth. He has promised that when we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). When we truly do delight ourselves in the Lord, the desires of our hearts will mirror the desires of His heart. We won’t crave fleshly things like wealth, but holiness, compassion, justice, and a closer relationship with Him. He hasn’t promised us material rewards here, but hereafter.

Church

Throwback Thursday ~ Persecution in the Pew

Originally published August 7, 2015persecution in the pew

Beheadings of Christians by ISIS. Crosses forcibly torn off churches by the Chinese government. Pastors imprisoned. Believers tortured for leaving Islam or sharing the gospel.

The treatment our brothers and sisters across the globe receive at the hands of pagans is nearly unfathomable. They are made to suffer – simply for claiming the name of Christ – by those who openly hate God and want nothing more than to stamp out Christianity.

This is how we, as the American church, have come to define persecution. Outsiders, non-Christians, and the government, all on the attack against the Bible, our faith, our practices, and other beliefs we have long held dear. It’s a correct definition, but it’s not a complete definition.

While we already see a “light” form of this type of persecution in the U.S. – mainly over the issue of homosexuality – there’s another kind of Christian persecution that is mushrooming right under our noses, which most church members either seem oblivious to, or are actually participating in. It’s the persecution in the pew.

If you’re a Christian who has ever dared to vocally take a stand on the truth of God’s word against the false teaching so prevalent in today’s pop Christianity, you’ve almost certainly experienced this type of persecution at the hands of people who call themselves “Christians.”

Don’t believe me?

Try posting a Facebook status that says the Bible prohibits women from being pastors or teaching men.

Demonstrate from Scripture to a Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, or Joel Osteen groupie that she’s following a false teacher.

Talk to a church member who supports Planned Parenthood because they provide health care.

Explain why Christians ought not attend same sex weddings.

Discuss the Bible’s account of Creation with someone from your church who has embraced Darwinian evolution.

Certainly, there are new and immature Christians who simply don’t know these things are unbiblical and are still struggling to embrace God’s word in these areas. And there are those who know what God’s word says, but rebel against it in these areas, who silently ignore Christians who espouse biblical truth, or can politely discuss why their “Christian” views differ from Scripture. However, the willfully biblically ignorant, “screaming banshee” contingent is growing, both in volume and in number.

Surprised? Me too. I’ve been on the receiving end of verbal abuse (and I do mean abuse – name calling, swearing, mocking, the questioning of my salvation, and any number of other nasty and condescending remarks) from “Christians” defending these and other unbiblical views numerous times and I still can’t get over my shock every time it happens.

Call me crazy, I guess I just expect people who claim to be Christians to believe and defend the Bible, not attack those who uphold it.

But this kind of thing really shouldn’t be cause for wonder and amazement. We should expect it. Persecution of God’s people by those who claim to be God’s people has been happening since the Old Testament.

Jeremiah:
Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. 2 Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the Lord. Jeremiah 20:1-2

Amos:
Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words…12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, 13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.” Amos 7:10, 12-13

Isaiah:
For they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; 10 who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, 11 leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 30:9-11

Perhaps Jesus had in mind some of these instances of Israel’s persecution of the prophets when He said in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:10-12

The balance of the New Testament is rife with examples of Christians, and even Jesus Himself, being persecuted by those who claim to be God’s people:

Stephen was martyred by “the people and the elders and the scribes,” while Paul, “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;” who went on to be a zealous “persecutor of the church” held their coats.

It was the “high priest, the senate of the people of Israel, and the Pharisees” who imprisoned and flogged the apostles and “charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus” in Acts 5:17-42.

Peter and John were arrested by “the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees” and threatened by “Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.”

Even Jesus “came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” He was nearly stoned twice by Jewish leaders. And, even though it was the Romans who actually carried out the crucifixion, it was only because it was illegal, under current Roman law, for the temple authorities to execute their own criminals.

It was one of Jesus’ own followers who betrayed him to the chief priests. It was the “chief priests and the elders” who arrested Jesus. It was “the high priest…scribes and the elders” who presided over the kangaroo court that condemned Jesus to death. And it was “all the chief priests and the elders of the people” who finally handed Jesus over to Rome.

We may think of these people as Jews, scribes, and Pharisees, but they were the “church people” of their day. It was these “church people” – as much, if not, at times, more so than pagans – who were the ones shouting down, threatening, persecuting, and murdering Jesus and Christians who upheld the truth of His word.

Jesus knew this would happen. In John 16:2-4 He warned the disciples:

They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.

And so it goes today. Deceived, self-proclaimed “Christians”, those inside the church who are often just as unsaved as the pagans outside the church, those who prove that they don’t belong to Christ by fighting against His word instead of loving and obeying it, these “church people” are the ones viciously attacking Christians who dare to stand on and for the truth of Scripture. And they think they’re doing God a favor by acting this way.

Continue to cling to Christ and His word and you’ll be one of their victims. It’s inevitable. Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” But keep your eyes on Jesus, not on your circumstances, and remember He also said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When you’re persecuted, even by “Christians” you can “rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven!”

Ezra Bible Study

Ezra: Lesson 7

ezra-study-e1465330077513

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


Ezra 6

Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in Babylonia, in the house of the archives where the documents were stored. And in Ecbatana, the citadel that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found on which this was written: “A record. In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices were offered, and let its foundations be retained. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, with three layers of great stones and one layer of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. And also let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought back to the temple that is in Jerusalem, each to its place. You shall put them in the house of God.”

“Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and your associates the governors who are in the province Beyond the River, keep away. Let the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site. Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God. The cost is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River. And whatever is needed—bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as the priests at Jerusalem require—let that be given to them day by day without fail, 10 that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons. 11 Also I make a decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it, and his house shall be made a dunghill. 12 May the God who has caused his name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who shall put out a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God that is in Jerusalem. I Darius make a decree; let it be done with all diligence.”

13 Then, according to the word sent by Darius the king, Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates did with all diligence what Darius the king had ordered.14 And the elders of the Jews built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia; 15 and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.

16 And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. 17 They offered at the dedication of this house of God 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 18 And they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their divisions, for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses.

19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the returned exiles kept the Passover. 20 For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were clean. So they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves. 21 It was eaten by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by every one who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the Lord, the God of Israel. 22 And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Ezra 5 closed out with Tattenai’s request to Darius that Darius check to see if Cyrus had ever issued an edict that the temple be rebuilt. As chapter 6 opens, how does Darius respond? (1) What did Darius discover? (2-5) Why did Darius have to abide by Cyrus’ edict?

2. List the allowances, instructions, and provisions Darius made for the rebuilding of temple in each verse listed:

(3-4)

(5)

(6-7)

(8-9)

(11-12)

How do these allowances demonstrate God’s provision and protection of His people through ordinary means as opposed to miraculous means? Is it any more significant for God to provide miraculously than through ordinary means? Which way does God usually provide for you and your family? Take a moment to thank God for His provision and ask Him to help you recognize His hand of provision even in ordinary circumstances.

3. Consider Darius’ previous encounter with God and His power. What impact might that experience have had on his view of God and his promise of stringent retribution in verses 10-12? How is God’s care for His people a testimony to the lost?

4. How do verses 14b and 22b show that even though godless men were favorable toward the rebuilding of the temple, it was ultimately God who was sovereign over the whole situation? How is Proverbs 21:1 evident throughout this chapter?

5. The Passover was a meal recalling God’s delivering of Israel from bondage and slavery. Our Lord’s Supper is a meal taken in remembrance of Christ’s suffering on the cross to set us free from the bondage of sin. In what ways was the Passover a time for both somber remembrance and joy? (19-22) In what ways is the Lord’s Supper a time for both somber remembrance and joy? How can this passage offer us a glimpse at our joy to come at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?

Ezra Bible Study

Ezra: Lesson 6

ezra-study-e1465330077513

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Ezra 5

Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it.

This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king. They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ 10 We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders. 11 And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, hegave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. 13 However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. 14 And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” 16 Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’17 Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Ezra 5 continues the story of events from chapter 4. Review Ezra 4:1-5, 24 (you may also wish to review lesson 5, link above). What event or activity is this passage dealing with? Cyrus issued the decree to rebuild the temple in 538 B.C. According to Ezra 3:8, how many years did it take the people to get started? What year would it have been when they started? What does 4:24 tell us happened to the work on the temple, and when did this happen? The second year of Darius’ reign was 520 B.C. How long had work on the temple been at a halt as chapter 5 opens?

2. Which two prophets declared the word of God to Israel? (1) (You may wish to stop and read their books right now to grasp God’s message to His people.) What was Zerubbabel and Jeshua’s response to the word of the Lord? (2) How is this an example of God’s instruction to Christians in James 1:22? Do you approach Bible study and the preaching and teaching of God’s word with the willingness to be a doer of God’s word and not a hearer only? What is the most recent action you have taken as a result of hearing or studying God’s word?

3. What happened once the rebuilding of the temple started up again? (3-4) What did the elders do despite this opposition, and why were they able to do so? (5) What attribute(s) of God’s character and nature does verse 5 display? How do these attributes apply to Christians today? Take a moment to thank God for His love and care for you.

4. How would you characterize the tone of the letter Tattenai and Shethar-bozenai sent Darius (businesslike, attacking, deceptive, etc.)? (6-17) In verse 8, they refer to God as “the great God.” Why might they have called Him that in light of the thousands of other gods worshiped in the ancient world? How might their view of God have been a cause of concern that Israel was building a house for Him?

5. Re-read verses 11-16, keeping in mind that this was a “might makes right” world. How might the leaders of a secular nation, wishing to make a show of strength to neighboring nations, have responded to these inquiries? Yet, how do the elders of Israel respond? What do they lead off with in their response? (11) How might verse 12 have made Israel look in the eyes of their neighbors? For what spiritual reasons might the elders have chosen to respond this way? Political reasons? What are some ways we can point our adversaries to Christ through humility and by crediting God and His sovereignty in our lives, churches, and the world?