Posted in reading, theology

2020 Christian Reading Challenge: My Big, Fat Book List!

By Elizabeth Prata

I love to read. But as much as I love it, my fleshly sinful nature will rear up to divert me from any wholesome activity, even one I love. My eyes tire more quickly too as I’ve gotten older so I struggle against the pull to just watch TV. I motivate myself to maintain this important habit in a number of ways. One of them is doing Tim Challies’ Christian Reading Challenge for 2020. He sets out a four-tiered list of themes to match with books you choose. You also choose the pace at which you want to read them. I chose Avid Level, reading 1 book every two weeks. His list is below. You can see the themes. Continue reading “2020 Christian Reading Challenge: My Big, Fat Book List!”

Posted in reading, theology

Challies Reading Challenge 2019: How did I do?

By Elizabeth Prata

Since it’s year-end and I’m concluding the Challies Christian Reading Challenge, the next couple of days will be about books and bookish things. I already wrote about a Bible Reading Plan.

I like a challenge. I like to have goals. I need them in order to stay on track and be productive. I like Reagan Rose’s Redeeming Productivity blog and podcasts, “A Christian Approach to Getting Stuff Done”. Otherwise I’d melt into a puddle of TV-watching couch potato with a melting brain to match! I recommend Rose’s blog and podcast, they’re great.

Here’s my reading progress for 2019, as I get ready for another Christian Reading Challenge for 2020: Continue reading “Challies Reading Challenge 2019: How did I do?”

Posted in bible reading plan, Uncategorized

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Abraham’s lie of omission

And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. (Genesis 20:2-8)

Porn: I’m not hurting anybody. It’s my decision. I’m the only one affected.
Adultery: Nobody knows, it’s fine. No one else is hurt by it.
Drunkenness: So what if I drink alone in my house, nobody else is being hurt, are they?

And so on. Sin is sin. Sin affects not only the perpetrator of sin but those around him or her.

Abraham told a half-truth. Sarah was his half-sister. But he left off a critical piece of information, one that Abimelech was seeking in good faith: is Sarah married? Abraham was silent on that score. He committed a sin of omission.

James 4:17 declares, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

Abraham also committed a sin against God by not trusting Him with the circumstance.

Poor Abimelech. There were certain things he had to do as a result of Abraham’s lie, such as returning Sarah, making arrangements to get Abraham back, telling the servants and so on. Abraham caused an upset against another person, a major one that almost cost Abimelech his life.

Think of Achan in Joshua 7. He stole some things in the military victory, though the Israelites were warned not to. Although the account shows that Achan individually was guilty of coveting and taking these war spoils, Joshua 7 opens with a declaration that the whole community of “the children of Israel [had] committed a trespass” (Joshua 7:1). Achan’s sin wasn’t individual, for 36 men lost their lives in the battle of Ai, which was lost because of Achan’s sin. (Joshua 7:11). All of Achan’s family were stoned as a result. (Joshua 7:24).

Whether sins of omission or commission, sin is never individual. It harms the person sinning, it harms the family, church, or even the nation. Most of all, personal sin is against God. Like ripples in a pond, sin extends it tentacles outward.

Finally, as David declared in Psalm 51:4,

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

ripples
EPrata photo
Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Why we must oppose false teachers: They shut heaven’s door in people’s faces

In the sermon The Characteristics of False Spiritual Leaders, Part 1, John MacArthur said,

There have always been and there always will be in this world false spiritual leaders who pretend to represent God, but in fact do not represent God. The Old Testament talks about them, identifies them, and warns people to stay away from them. The New Testament does the same. In fact, Moses was in conflict with them in Egypt. Jeremiah was fighting with them in Judah. Ezekiel faced them and called them foolish prophets that followed their own spirit and have seen nothing. Our Lord warned of them as false Christ’s and false prophets who shall show great signs and wonders. The apostle Paul struggled against them as preachers of another gospel in Galatians Chapter 1, and purveyors of the doctrine of demons he called them in writing to Timothy.

Continue reading “Why we must oppose false teachers: They shut heaven’s door in people’s faces”

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Link-a-palooza: Melton, Shack, amillennialism, discernment, reading challenge

Here are some links that will hopefully edify you, or at least get you thinking. I read a comment from Michelle Dacus Lesley the other day and it stuck with me. She wrote on her Twitter stream

It’s getting hard to tell people to examine false teachers against Scripture for themselves. They’re biblically illiterate & don’t know how.

This is a wise and perceptive statement. Women have been led in Bible study groups for a generation now in study of false teachers like Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer. They’ve been told that social justice is where it’s at and to just go out and ‘do something’. They’ve observed that they way to ‘study’ the Bible is to have an emotional discussion about what the verse means ‘to me’ and worse, ‘how I feel about it’. They have experiences they’re told substitute for theology. They have been given coloring books, stickers, and craft activities and told these activities help in sanctification. Many women don’t know HOW to discern any more.

Rule #1: Read the Bible. Just reading it on a regular basis will be the 80% start to a proper perspective, which is a biblical worldview. To start, you do not need a fancy theology class, a glossy set of text books with fill-in-the blank workbook, or any other materials or skills. Just start reading God’s word.

Rule #2 for gaining discernment is prayer. Asking the Holy Spirit to deliver illumination and wisdom is important for our discerning growth. He will do it. He said so in the verse He inspired.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)

And none of us possesses all the wisdom we need, do we? God is the source and fount of all wisdom. He will deliver understanding to his children. But this is where the partnering with God comes in. As RC Sproul taught in the Justification by Faithonline class at Ligonier,

Regeneration is the sovereign, monergistic work of God the Holy Spirit. Monergism means “one working.” God is the only one who is active in regeneration.
The rest of the process of salvation is a synergistic, cooperative work. We are not passive in our sanctification. Our sanctification is to be a diligent labor that we undertake knowing that we have the grace of God working in us.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12)

I won’t go into a lengthy discernment lesson here today. Sometime soon, perhaps a discernment series. Meanwhile, here is an excellent essay on how to detect false teachers by William Swan Plumer (1802-1880) who was an American Presbyterian minister. His commentaries on Psalms and Romans are still widely appreciated.
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Today, you will see by the list of links I’ll post below that discernment is much needed by all in these days, and especially for women, because we are so vulnerable to false doctrine. (1 Timothy 2:13–14, 2 Corinthians 11:3). There are many realms necessary for a heightened attention to discernment, from books, movies, false teachers, false doctrine, and celebrity pastors.
I wrote against Glennon Doyle Melton in 2014. Melton is a hugely popular writer and blogger, who purports to be a Christian. Even back in 2014, I saw very troubling holes in her doctrine. Even before 2014, others could see Melton’s stance was troublesome. When I’d written two years ago I’d flatly and clearly said that she is not a Christian. I wrote an update against Melton last month. Since 2014, Melton has become softer in her doctrine,  divorced, become a lesbian, and now she calls God a ‘she.’ With these evidences, no one by any stretch of any imagination can one still say Melton is a Christian. In this post by Amy Spreeman at Berean Examiner, we read more on the latest.

Glennon Doyle Melton calls God a ‘she’.

She’s not the first to call our heavenly Father, Son and Holy Spirit a female.  But Melton may well be one of the few “Christians” to do so. (The Washington Post and People Magazine have both referred to her as a Christian writer, though you won’t see her proclaiming the Gospel or talking about Jesus Christ much.) And thanks to the upcoming The Shack movie, calling the God-head a woman will soon be pretty ho-hum and why not.

Speaking of The Shack, the blockbuster book from 2007 is now being released as a movie.

The Shack is an upcoming American drama film directed by Stuart Hazeldine and co-written by John Fusco, based on the 2007 novel of same name by William P. Young so begins the obligatory Wikipedia entry.

I’d written against The Shack in 2008 and twice in 2009.

The Shack is a devilish deception
The Shack is a doctrine of demons
Why Christians Should Not Read The Shack

This week, Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary and Boyce College, wrote an important piece titled,

The Shack — The Missing Art of Evangelical Discernment

In the shack, “Mack” meets the divine Trinity as “Papa,” an African-American woman; Jesus, a Jewish carpenter; and “Sarayu,” an Asian woman who is revealed to be the Holy Spirit. The book is mainly a series of dialogues between Mack, Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu. Those conversations reveal God to be very different than the God of the Bible. “Papa” is absolutely non-judgmental, and seems most determined to affirm that all humanity is already redeemed.

Photo from The Shack Movie site.
Depicted from left are “Jesus”, the main character Mack (in jacket)
“God”, and “Holy Spirit”. This is offensive in the extreme.
I’ve received the comment quite often that The Shack “is only fiction” and by tacit extension, therefore harmless. Not so. However Dr. Mohler said,

it is also a sustained theological argument, and this simply cannot be denied. Any number of notable novels and works of literature have contained aberrant theology, and even heresy. The crucial question is whether the aberrant doctrines are features of the story or the message of the work. When it comes to The Shack, the really troubling fact is that so many readers are drawn to the theological message of the book, and fail to see how it conflicts with the Bible at so many crucial points.

I recommend his essay highly.

Speaking of ‘Christian’ books, Steven at the Author of My Faith who is a “a Doctrines of Grace, Credobaptist, Complementarian, Cessationist, Amillennial, Christian who loves Jesus Christ’ writer, comments on the lack of integrity in the ‘Christian’ book industry

After witnessing first-hand the lack of integrity that is involved in Christian publishing, the video below helps to make sense of it all. It’s all about the money. It doesn’t matter if the story is true or even orthodox, the bottom line is; can it sell?

The video IS helpful, it explains the connections between the process of raising up a celebrity pastor and his books, and why those books are important to the publishing industry.

The blogger Steve I linked to above said on his About page that he is an amillennialist. A friend of mine recently asked why so many Reformed believing pastors and leaders seem to dismiss the biblical truth that Jesus is planning to gather the saints before the tribulation begins, return when it’s concluded and reign from his earthly kingdom for 1000 years (Millennial Kingdom). Disbelieving the earthly reign of Jesus, or treating the verses referring to is as symbolical only, is amillennialism. I really didn’t have an answer, but I agreed with her that it seems that though many Reformed pastors preach expositorily and well on many verses and doctrines, when it came to eschatology, especially the post-Tribulation events such as the 1000 year reign, they whiff it.

Here is a book recommended by Grace Community Church’s Mike Riccardi. It’s called Amillennialism and the Age to Come by Matt Waymeyer. This book is a solid and charitable defense of premillennialsim (the stance that Jesus is going to gather His saints before the Millennial Kingdom is physically established on earth when the Tribulation is concluded). Here is an excerpt from the preface of Waymeyer’s book.

One of the most encouraging developments in evangelicalism over the past several decades has been the remarkable resurgence of reformed theology. This rediscovery of the doctrines of grace has not only captured the Bible’s emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation but also strengthened the unity of the church around the centrality of the gospel.

In the area of eschatology, however, I have noticed two concerning trends among those who have joined this reformation. The first involves what I call eschatological agnosticism. To be sure, eschatology is one of the most difficult theological issues to understand, especially when it comes to the finer details. But some Christians, although diligent students of Scripture in every other area, avoid the topic altogether and appear content to place themselves in the category of undecided. Some even seem proud of their agnosticism, as if ignorance about the meaning of biblical prophecy is evidence of a commitment to more significant matters. But affirming the centrality of the gospel should not mean dismissing the importance of how God will accomplish the restoration of all things to Himself. Scripture reveals too much about the subject of eschatology for Christians to be content in the dark, especially those who preach the Word and shepherd the flock.

A second trend is the way that some Christians are quick to embrace amillennialism simply because they see it as the reformed position on the end times. This appears to be most common among former Arminians. After an initial exposure to reformed theology, they spend the next several years diligently studying the Bible’s teaching on predestination before finally identifying themselves as Calvinists. But their subsequent conversion to amillennialism takes place overnight—and oftentimes with very little first-hand study of the biblical text—simply because they see it as an indispensable part of the reformed system.

If you want to get ready for a reading challenge of some GOOD books, not the false doctrine kind of shallow and misleading books like The Shack, Tim Challies is gearing up for the 2017 reading Challenge. He’s got a pace from everything from slow to light-speed.

  • The Light Reader. This plan has 13 books which sets a pace of 1 book every 4 weeks.
  • The Avid Reader. The Avid plan adds another 13 books which increases the pace to 1 book every 2 weeks.
  • The Committed Reader. This plan adds a further 26 books, bringing the total to 52, or 1 book every week.
  • The Obsessed Reader. The Obsessed plan doubles the total to 104 books which sets a demanding pace of 2 books every week

Check it out! I would like to read the books of various genres Challies recommends at the Avid level, or 1 book every 2 weeks. But I’ve tried and utterly failed at reading challenges, Bible reading plans, and anything smacking of structure. It’s not in me. I might give it a try anyway, but if I’m like I always have been, I not only fail, but fail immediately, like by the third day. Oy. Maybe you will do better than me! Give it a go, it’s an interesting list of books!

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Further Reading

Review: Burning Down The Shack