Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

How To Do Online Discernment Ministry, part 1

Part 2 here

There’s online discernment ministry, and there’s online “discernment ministry.” I hope I’m the former. The latter is often discussed negatively. When “scare quotes” are put around the name of discernment ministry, it’s a pejorative. Scare quotes in journalism are sometimes called sneer quotes, so you get the idea.

Though I post articles about a trio of topics, including encouragement and prophecy, I do post articles about discernment. I post articles naming names of false teachers. One-third of what I do online regarding my blog is online discernment. So, am I one of the good ones, or one of the bad ones doing “discernment ministry”? Let’s have a two-part lesson on how to do online discernment ministry, and through it I’ll reveal what I do and how I go about it, and I’ll challenge you to test the discerners you follow, (including me), by sharing how.

What Is Discernment and is it Biblical?

One of the gifts given to people by the Spirit is discernment. (1 Corinthians 12:10). This is one of the spiritual gifts given to me. I primarily serve in my local church, which I believe is extremely important because it’s a command (Ephesians 4:12, Romans 15:2 etc). Spiritual gifts are meant to be used in a local body of believers, for edification and for accountability purposes.

Biblically, discernment is important. It’s a skill all believers must hone, but some were given ‘an extra dose’ if you will, in the form of a specific gift. In the days when the canon was not set, prophecies and revelations and epistles were coming in to the believers. Some of the letters were false. Each local body needed to be able to determine which messages were truly from a designated apostle, and which were false. The church at Ephesus was praised for having developed worthy discernment, (Revelation 2:2) while the church at Thyatira was rebuked for their lack of it. (Revelation 2:20).

The gift is still in force today, much needed, as many false prophets have gone out into the world, and we must test the spirits now as then (1 John 4:1).

By 2003, user-friendly blog platforms had come along, and Blogger announced it had a million users. Christians rapidly gravitated to this new publishing method and pastors and theologians were setting up blogs to push the message. So were lay theologians, cranks, wingnuts, and anyone with a theory or opinion, including me. My first blog came along in 2006 but after two and a half years of writing increasingly Christian content, I separated the content and started a second blog, this one, in January 2009. It is solely focused on Christian content while my other one remains personal. I’ve blogged just about every day on The End Time blog ever since.

By now in the new millennium, many other means have been invented with which to share the message of the Gospel and to maintain its purity. Podcasts, websites, blogs, movies, texts, simulcasts, and more are blessedly available to get our message out. I believe those methods should be used. In Paul’s day there was no internet. But he wrote letters, the internet of his day. Whatever means that the Lord has allowed to be invented to share Christian doctrine, testimonies, missionary reports, and the like, is a good thing in my opinion.

A Little About Me

I’ve published 4,370 essays. That is a lot to say. Yet, who am I? Just some lady in a corner of the internet. I’m not a celebrity. I haven’t gone to seminary. I am just someone taking advantage of the platforms available to share my opinion and perspective. You need discernment to ensure that I am worthy of your time and attention.

I have been a writer all my life and before the internet was available, it was hard to get published. I had been published a few measly times, in a journal or magazine here or there. But it took enormous effort to send pieces for publication to Publishing Houses or Magazines and the monoliths would send rejection letters back after many weeks, if they sent anything at all. It was frustrating.

So when easy platforms like Blogger, LiveJournal (remember them?) and WordPress came along with the touch of a button, anyone could publish, including me! So I did.

An egalitarian publishing world has its downsides too. People can and do propagate error. Not just in theology but in politics, sociology, psychology; in any -ology there will be people who want to push their message. The internet is unregulated, (yay!) but it takes wisdom and discernment to sift through increasingly unhealthy, errant, or just plain rotten content to find the gold. Or just the good.

What are the Blogger’s Credentials? Track Record?

So when you look for a blog to follow, especially a discernment blog or an eschatology blog (those Christian subjects seem to draw the more wonky theorists and unstable theologians), look to see who is writing. Do they have a track record? Do they have credentials? Not that credentials are of sole importance, but sometimes it counts- and that can be for or against. A blogger might say in his ‘About,’ that “I have a Masters of Religious Education” but upon searching further you discover the MA is from Brigham Young University, the Mormon college.

As to the track record, look for their trajectory. Did they start off solid and weaken over time? Do they quote the Bible appropriately? Do they quote the Bible at all? Or are they drifting into theories and conspiracies? Are they focused on secular controversies or extra-biblical prophecies, personal revelations?

When I first started blogging I did newspaper eisegesis. I looked at the news and looked at the Bible and then made statements about it. Israel really is the center of it all! There’s a reason Israel is always in the news! The Middle East is volatile because of the Esau-Jacob struggle! People really are horrible, not basically good, and the news confirms it! I don’t think I ever crossed a line, but you can determine that. I didn’t focus solely on that, though, which is another important measure of a credible discernment ministry. If someone is always writing about and researching the bad, that colors one’s perspective. Soon one can lose perspective.

As for my early days, I don’t apologize for the interest in global affairs as they related to biblical prophecy. My eyes had been opened to another world, the Christian worldview through a biblical lens, and it was wonderful and amazing. I loved that time. I remember distinctly the amazement I felt when learning that the Christian world had been there all along. I was aroused with wonder to learn that God’s plan is orderly and may come to an end any day. That sense of wonder and imminence has never left me and I hope it never will.

But I grew out of the newspaper stuff by the Lord’s grace and went on to study deeper theology. That is what to look for. Is a discernment ministry writer growing up toward Christ, or growing away from Christ?

My credentials…I am loathe to share lest it seem like boasting, but the few times I’ve mentioned this in 9 years perhaps will be forgiven.

I am a writer & researcher, having been published in The Reading Teacher and The LAB at Brown University, in literary journal Brownstone Review and Glamour Magazine. I have helped edit Chicago’s National Association for the Study of Education 98th and 99th Annual Yearbook of Education Research. I was a newspaper publisher, editing a New England Press Association award-winning weekly newspaper. I’ve also been employed by the daily paper Athens Banner Herald as a features writer and have written for the Madison County Journal.

I was and am a educator. I worked as a short and long term substitute, a para-professional and as a certified elementary school teacher. I took some years off to attain a Masters Degree in Literacy Education, and to travel widely, before resuming work as a para-professional, of which I am employed to this day.

Is the Blogger a Lone Ranger, Not a Member of any Church?

I am a member of a local church, fully participating by steady attendance at Sunday worship service as well as weekly attendance in several small groups overseen by the church elders.

Those are my professional and personal credentials. I have no theological credentials. I have taken several for-credit classes through Ligonier. I listen to The Master’s University lecturers online. I applied to and was accepted at Reformed Theological Seminary but after the very first class taught a possible young earth and long years evolution, I quit. Other than daily study in diligence and submission, regular church attendance, and listening multiple times per week to credible pastors, I have no official theological credentials.

When you visit a discernment ministry online, assess who is in charge of it. Who is writing and sending out theological messages? I can’t tell you to do that without giving you some idea of who I am, and whether I should be read or followed. Transparency is important. Hence the above paragraph.

I do not agree with those writers who blog anonymously. I understand the issues around privacy and safety, especially for women, but if one is going to proclaim Christ, one does so openly. Jesus said He did nothing in secret (John 18:20). Paul said he works openly, nothing is done in secret (Acts 26:26).

That is the how and the why. Part 2 will discuss how to assess whether someone is a credible online discernment ministries such as discussing the importance of primary sources, and other tips such as separation issues and solidity and growth over time. I’ll look at how unscrupulous “discernment bloggers” use tenuous connections, weasel words, out-of-context material and quotes, and unrepresentative doctrine.

Till then, thank you and bless you for reading.

error and truth discernment

Part 2 here

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

You (I) don’t have to say everything

There’s always controversy in the world. We live in a contentious world, led by a liar who is also a thief and a destroyer. Ergo…contention.

Contention is not restricted to the secular world. Watching the news has become a chore for those who still persist in viewing it is often seen as simply sandbox yelling and fisticuffs at a juvenile level. The news itself, when the ‘journalists’ get around to reporting it, is evil, heartbreaking, and soul denting.

Controversy also occurs in the Christian world. It has since the beginning, the very beginning. They killed Jesus, the only perfect, sinless, and loving human being ever to walk the earth. People who long for the early days of the first century church need to remember that false doctrines, false prophets, and false teachers crawled in like a tsunami of cockroaches and permeated the faith right away. The Apostles had to spend a lot of time stamping them out. It even affected Peter and Barnabas, who had to be corrected publicly by Paul. There were Nicolatians, the Judaizers, the Gnostics,  those who went the way of Balaam, individual false teachers going from town to town, the Pharisees, and many others who had to be opposed with a voice from the pastor or leader. Vigilance was necessary.

John Calvin said that a pastor must have two voices. One, for gathering the sheep; and another, for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both.

However, you notice that the Bible’s writers did not spend a lot of time opining about the culture. They did not opine about every emperor transition, every tragedy, every riot or mob incident or organization or guild. There was one mention by Jesus of the Tower of Siloam incident which seemed to have happened “off stage” and was only spoken of as an object lesson for death.

Our hurry-up, social media, 24-hour news culture seems to demand from us an opinion on just about everything. These days, it demands that the opinion has to come with some form of outrage or offendedness.

I was a journalist for almost 8 years. I worked for weeklies, dailies, and contributed to a monthly. I was a news reporter so I had to be in tune with the culture and fresh news. I was an editor so I had to have an opinion about it, and write it in such a way so as to help people make sense in their daily lives of what they read. I won awards for news editorials. I was good at it and news opinion was a constant thread in my work no matter what other kind of journalism I was working at.

However all those habits and works were a detriment to me when it came time to be saved and begin a writing ministry. I had to go slower. I had to step out of the cycle. Most painfully, I had to learn that I didn’t have to have an opinion.

People smarter than me have opinions on the culture, on today’s news, on the secular and religious controversies. People who have more information have opinions. People with more talent have opinions. People who are men, the leaders and pastors have opinions.

I’ve mentioned that I really enjoy Samuel D. James’ writing. He published an essay recently called The Bible is Not a Slideshow for Your Hot Take

Mr James wrote about the aftermath of the news that comedian Robin Williams had taken his own life. It’s a good moment and a good impulse when the Chrisitan wants to capture the moment and impart some Christian worldview truths. “This is good, and normal,” he wrote. However, too often we do not have all the information necessary to do so in a God-honoring way. As time went on, more information came out that added dimension and nuance to the Robin Williams tragedy. If the Christian who had written superficially in the immediate aftermath did so in a less than God-honoring way (“Click to like!”) then it’s a tragedy for us too.

What I am saying is that cheaply thought, cheaply written responses to these events by definition betray the Christian commitment to the centrality of truth.

Aaron Armstrong wrote a similar essay with an ever more pointed headline: No You Don’t Have to Comment On Everything

I have opinions about politics, including American politics. I occasionally share those opinions. But usually, I prefer to keep my mouth shut. Why? It generally comes down to one thing. A proverb, in fact. “A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions” (Proverbs 18:2, CSB).

When the James White-Brannon Howse issue came to the fore, I had an opinion. When it continued, I had an opinion. As it subsided, I had an opinion. I didn’t share my opinion, except for one private query with my very short answer. Why? The men were handling it. Phil Johnson was on it. The men of GTY were on it. Others behind the scenes were on it. In the end Justin Peters and his church elders from Kootenai Church were on it. They knew more. They had a bigger platform. They were more humble. They had more spiritual insight. They possessed more experience.

I feel that the above mentioned controversy was a good test for me. It took a long time for me to subside the drive to be first, get a word in, have a published opinion. This was difficult for a hard-boiled journalist taught to be first, get a word in, have a published opinion. It’s even harder when the Lord has given the spiritual gift of exhortation. I always want to speak, but I don’t always have to speak. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. (Ecclesiastes 3:7).

Sometimes I’ll feel led to have a public opinion. That’s OK. But not every time. Not all the time.

It IS more relaxing to not feel like I have to publicly weigh in or have a public position on every single controversy in the world. Sometimes in my news days I felt like a minnow in a washing machine. I don’t want to feel that way as a Christian. I want to exude a steadiness, a patience, a reserve, a solidity.

I’ll let my favorite pastor and one of Christendom’s most respected living teachers have the last word. Whether you feel led most times or only sometimes to state your position on social media or other forms of wide communication…

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

2016 By the Numbers, part 1. Top blog essays this year

It was a good year, fast coming and fast leaving. It seems like it was just 2008, and now it’s nearly a decade later. Time hurries. Where does it go?

I haven’t done as much as I’d hoped for the Lord and yet I’m sure there are things I’ve done that I’m not aware of that pleased Him more than things I purposely did for Him which didn’t. I worked, laughed, studied, rested, helped, worshiped…all the things. I hope it was not striving after wind!

The Preacher wrote,

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

The end of the matter, the end of the year. All has been done…

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Before we get too maudlin, we do rejoice in His cyclical march of time and seasons. We even rejoice that there is nothing new under the sun. Our God is ever stable, never changing, the same yesterday, today and forever!

As for me, the march of time includes another blogging year. This year I started another, mirror blog to this one, over at WordPress. http://www.the-end-time.org. It’s a back-up in case the blogger blog gets suspended for “hate speech”, something that seemed to happen a lot after last June’s Supreme Court decision legitimizing (to the secular world.) homosexual marriage.

The Lord in His grace allowed me to blog each and every day, or more. I published over 365 essays that had the intent of glorifying Him and/or edifying the sisters in faith. Of the most popular essays, that is to say number of views, because one particular essay was certainly not popular, are the essays in the discernment spheres.

I write essays in three spheres: discernment, prophecy, and encouragement. Of the three kinds, the discernment essays garner the most views. Of the top ten viewed essays this year, 9 were discernment essays. Most of those discernment essays that received the most views were about Beth Moore. Apparently people still need warning about her. I would hope that the interest in discernment is because these essays help sisters grow in faith. There is nothing worse than false doctrine deceiving many, with the sole exception of dying in sins.

I know part of it is that people like a good fight, and the discernment essays to some are just that. Juicy fights they can wrap their fleshly mind around. But I write them because they are necessary. What someone does with them in their mind is up to them and the Holy Spirit. Discernment is so important to me, just as much as it was 12 months ago at the last year-end blog review and 8 years ago when I started this blog. I’ll relate an example of how important discernment is that I’d I shared on the blog last month.

I’ll follow that up with a real example that happened to me in the discernment realms two weeks ago. I write about the dangers of Beth Moore a lot. I’ve written about her numerous times. I was getting tired of writing about Beth Moore. Surely everyone knows she’s false. Surely everyone is up to speed, I’d begun to think. 

Well, someone, somewhere posted a link to an old essay I’d written about Beth Moore. It suddenly was getting a lot of traction. I mean, like thousands of views per day. I received an email from a younger woman. She said thank you for the essay, and she said “this is the first time I’ve ever heard anything bad about Beth Moore.” I wept in gratitude that the Spirit is so faithful. So yes, I point fingers, and I always will.

I was speaking with a young lady the other day about this and she said she didn’t know until recently there were problems with Beth Moore. So, discernment will continue.

Overall, I hope that every encouraging article, every discernment lesson, every prophecy explained, glorifies Jesus and helps someone out there. With that, here are the top ten viewed essays in 2016 on The End Time. After those, my own personal top favorite essays 🙂

10. “Anyone can find the dirt in someone”… How Facebook helps twist God’s Word
Facebook memes using God’s word…be careful. Facebook is wonderful for perpetuating false teaching and ridiculous memes. I’d written,

No matter what translation you look at the verse in, the sentiment expressed on the photo is not the same as the one stated in the Word. Every translation mentions evil, but the scripture photo mentions only good. … That’s the trouble with Twitter, Facebook, etc. Only half the verse is shown. Or it’s ripped from its context (Jeremiah 29:11 comes immediately to mind).

9. Here is the one non-discernment essay that made the top ten. Kay Cude is a Texas poet, an elder woman with wisdom in her mind and love for Jesus in her heart. He gave her a talent for combining the two in poetic language, and I’ve been blessed to be the recipient of it and allowed to publish her work here.

Here is an excerpt

8. Most of the discernment essays had to do with the ubiquitous and ever false Beth Moore. I cannot wait until the Lord stops her mouth. (Titus 1:11). This essay looks at the story she often tells, The Hairbrush. I have a personal connection to this story via her LPM lesson and a ladies retreat.

Discernment Lesson: Deconstructing Beth Moore’s most popular story

A third way to look at this popular story of course is to compare it directly to scripture. It’s hard to know exactly where to start because Moore doesn’t teach scripture. She teaches feelings, events, and stories. Joel Osteen waves his Bible at the beginning of every broadcast. The crawl along the bottom of the TV flashes scripture addresses, but Osteen never really says what the scripture is about. Thus he and Moore and others look like they are teaching the Bible, but they really aren’t.

7. Unbiblical divorce is an issue in Christendom. Two high-profile ministry parents, James R. White and Beth Moore, had daughters who divorced. One did so biblically nad publicly in 2016 and one did so secretly and quietly in 2013. This essay looked at both dovorces from women who say they are in the faith.

Two divorce cases: Summer White and Melissa Moore

6. Beth Moore again. People must need constant teaching as to why this dangerous woman must be avoided. This essay received over 4000 views. It’s a biblical look at the verse in Matthew 18:18–20 about what we bind on earth is bound in heaven, and how Moore’s increasing Charismaticism is destructive to solid exposition-

Beth Moore binding prayers

5. I looked at a sermon by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Beth Moore teaching the exact same verse, and showed through a point-by-point discernment lesson how Moore’s varied from scripture, and why. Though it is helpful and biblical to point fingers at false teachers and warn, it is more helpful to show why and how. I seek to do that. However, be it known that I have no problem with pointing fingers, naming names, or warning incessantly in discernment for the protection and help of the weaker sisters. I am unapologetic and unhesitating about that, because the Bible tells us to do it, and because it is a spiritual gift the Holy Spirit delivered to me.

Discernment Lesson: Comparing a Beth Moore & Martyn Lloyd Jones teaching on on the same verse

4. Ravi Zacharias. What a sad essay I had to write with that one. No one is above being looked at for their teaching, if they claim to speak God’s words and do any evangelizing, witnessing, or missionary work etc., on His behalf. Ambassadors must be examined to see if they are:

A. Teaching rightly according to the word (not twisting or introducing false doctrine as per 2 Timothy 2:15),
B. Delivering the King’s FULL message (Acts 20:27).

Was there any part of God’s word Paul shrank from delivering? Was there any message Paul felt was too delicate, too incendiary, too strong for the people to hear? Was there any message Paul felt was not a  part of contending for the faith? No. However, there is much from the Word that Zacharias will not speak. My essay shared that, plus looked as his lack of discernment in partnering with heretics and also endeavoring in rhetoric and fine sounding arguments from philosophy. This essay resonated. It received almost 10,000 views.

On Discerning Ravi Zacharias: It’s time to say what needs to be said

3. My little blog gets help from some other bloggers when they link to mine. Thanks, fellow bloggers! Someone linked to this one, and it received over 12,000 views. Thank you so much!

The problem with tolerating false teachers is…

A friend and I were talking about the younger church generation. A kind of “Kids these days” conversation, lol. She said, “They’ve been swimming in Beth Moore stuff for so long they don’t know if they are even in troubled water.” She and I, and others I’ve spoken with, notice the younger generation of 16-25 year olds simply do not have a solid theological grounding. They do not approach Bible study credibly. They infuse it with feelings, mysticism, romanticism, and subjective experience. They think this is the norm.
This is wrong.
And it is our fault.

Home and Garden TV (HGTV) presently has on its schedule a very popular show called “Fixer Upper.” Its hosts are Chip and Joanna Gaines, a married couple from Waco Texas. The show gained popularity because of its wholesomeness and the design of the home-stager Joanna. It gained more popularity when local Baylor University and Gaines Alum Joanna partnered to produce a testimony video which allegedly shared her Christian faith. I was troubled by what I’d heard and seen in the video and more troubled when I’d watched three seasons of Fixer Upper straight through. The Gaines lifestyle didn’t seem to match up with what they were saying in interviews and videos and articles and on their show. So…I did two articles which looked first at Joanna’s testimony, and secondly at their life compared to the Bible and to what they say. To this day, these essays are the most popularly viewed on the blog. Number two received 18,410 views.

2. Looking at HGTV’s Fixer Upper Joanna Gaines’ testimony: Christianity, or Prosperity Gospel?

Several years ago a Waco business developer/realty/design/construction company generally named Magnolia run by Chip and Joanna Gaines were contacted to star in a HGTV fixer upper show. The first episode aired in April 2014 and has become an instant hit for the network. Ratings in the first season were through the roof. This phenomenon was largely attributed to the couple’s likability and charisma, good looks, and business savvy.

1. Below is part 2, the top blog essay of the year, 91,365 views. Unbelievers HATE lifestyle discernment essays. But we look at both the doctrine and the behavior of a person who claims Christ as their savior. When Paul was outlining the credentials of potential leaders and elders to Timothy, only one attribute related to skill. (“able to teach” 1 Timothy 3:2). The rest were behavior and lifestyle attributes.

The Hypocrisy of Chip and Joanna Gaines

With all the national attention given to folks who claim to be Christians, and have been given a platform to speak it or live it out for all to see, we should examine both their theology and their lifestyle to see if indeed what they are saying lines up with the Bible. In Ms Gaines’ case, her testimony was not biblical. That’s what we saw in yesterday’s essay. Today we examine the Gaines’s lifestyle.

Discernment still matters, sisters. Just because another year has passed and we have grown in faith, does not mean we have outgrown discernment. We haven’t. Some might find it distasteful, but beware. Dispensing with contending for the faith brings with it its own problems. There are always those born into the faith who do not know. Our own discernment must be, as Sinclair Ferguson says below, “constantly nourished”

What is Discernment?

Most of us doubtless want to distance ourselves from what might be regarded as “the lunatic fringe” of contemporary Christianity. 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.

Thus, discernment is like the physical senses; to some it is given in unusual measure as a special grace gift (1 Cor. 12:10), but some measure of it is essential for us all and must be constantly nourished. The Christian must take care to develop his “sixth sense” of spiritual discernment. This is why the psalmist prays, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge” (Ps. 119:66).

Ferguson continues with defining discernment, showing 4 impacts of how discernment affects the way we live, and teaching how such discernment it to be obtained.

John MacArthur writes What is Biblical Discernment and Why is it Important?

In its simplest definition, discernment is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.

So those are the top ten essays that the public viewed and consumed this year. My personal favorite essays, though, were

Wynter Awakeneth All My Care

Ex-Wham! singer George Michael dead

The Forgotten Victorian Craze for Collecting Seaweed, and other biblical thoughts on women’s roles

Jachin and Boaz, two named Temple columns

The beauty of creation at the microscopic level

East is from the west: cardinal directions in the Bible

I live a small life in obscurity. Can I really make a difference for God?

It was an ordinary day, and the woman was thirsty (I love, love, love the woman at the well story. It’s my favorite, along with Hagar in the desert)

God’s word goes out and does not return void: Faroe Islands

Relief in Christ, a soul rejoices

The curse of thorns and the crown of thorns

I love the encouragement essays and the praise essays. I like writing them and I pray they encourage others as well. I also love researching the natural history essays, learning about linen-making or the onions of the Nile or the animals in the Bible.

Lord willing I’ll still be blogging as much and in truth throughout 2017. Happy New Year all!