Laudable Linkage

I have just a few links to share this week:

Prayers That God Will Not Answer. “There are times when it seems like God does not hear us. There are times when it seems like God has become deaf to our prayers and unresponsive to our cries. There are times when we seek but do not find, knock but do not find the door opened. Why is it that God sometimes does not answer our prayers?”

Embodied Discernment: Learning to Discern With Our Hearts. Minds, and Actions, HT to Challies. “Where I went wrong is that my discernment only engaged my mind—and if you’re like me, maybe you’ve gone wrong in this way too. Why is this a problem? Doesn’t discernment only require logic and study?”

5 Steps to Deal with a Distressing Situation. “Based on 1 Samuel chapter 30, I want to share with you these five biblical steps when we face adverse situations which cause great distress and bitterness.”

Patsy at InstaEncouragements is hosting a summer book club reading and sharing insights on Aging With Grace: Flourishing In an Anti-Aging Cultureby Sharon W. Betters and Susan Hunt. Discussion on the first chapter is here. It’s not too late to join in!

Our Responsibility to Discern False Teaching

A prophet of God sat under an oak, taking a rest from his long journey. He had come from Judah to Bethel to deliver to King Jeroboam a harsh but needed message.

God had told this prophet not to eat bread or drink water while on this mission, and to return by a different way than he had come. Perhaps the man of God thought these directives were to protect him from the possible diversion by the king, who offered him refreshment and a reward. Or they were to keep him from appearing to show any sign of compromise, as a meal together would indicate friendship and fellowship. Or he might have felt they were a form of fasting, symbolic of his dedication in doing God’s work.

Maybe he should have interpreted them as, “Don’t linger. Do your business and get back as soon as possible.”

As he rested, an older man rode up to him on a donkey, identifying himself as a prophet of God as well. Prophet 2 (let’s call him Henry to avoid confusing pronouns) invited Prophet 1 (George, let’s say) home for a meal. George repeated what he had told the king: he had been told not to eat bread or drink water in that place.

But Henry assured George it was all right. “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’”

George didn’t think he had a reason to distrust Henry: he was a fellow prophet after all. And George was probably tired, hungry, and thirsty. So he accompanied Henry back to his house.

But Henry had been lying.

“As they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back. And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord and have not kept the command that the Lord your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, ‘Eat no bread and drink no water,’ your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’”

There’s no record of George’s response. But on his way home, a lion killed him. George’s body was thrown from his donkey, but the lion didn’t eat either George or the donkey. The animals just waited with the body until townspeople passed by and brought word back to the city about what had happened. Henry heard the news and rode back to pick up George, then brought him home to bury in his own tomb.

This is one of the oddest stories in the Bible (1 Kings 13). One of the first questions that comes to mind is, “Why did the second prophet lie to the first?” What earthly reason could he have had? The Bible doesn’t tell us. He didn’t hate the first prophet: he mourned him, called him brother, and confirmed his prophecy to Jeroboam. He even asked to be buried next to him when he died.

We have to remember this is not an isolated story just thrown into the narrative of Israel’s kings. This incident took place within the bigger context of Jeroboam’s awful sins of making golden calves for Israel to worship and setting up a whole different system than what God had given Israel. Perhaps this story is an OT illustration of the NT verse in 1 Peter 4:17: “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” If God would discipline his own prophet who had disobeyed a simple directive, what would He do to the likes of Jeroboam? Perhaps this story was confirmation that God would deal with Jeroboam as the prophet had said.

There are several truths and applications that could be gleaned from this passage. But the one I want to hone in on is this: Know God’s Word. Obey it. Don’t let the surrounding culture turn you away from it. Don’t let even other professing believers distract you from it.

That’s not to say we never ask counsel or receive advice. The Bible tells us to do both. The fellowship of other believers, Bible study books, commentaries, and other aids can open our understanding and point out things we missed.

But we’re to know God’s Word for ourselves so we can discern when someone is telling us something different.

False prophets don’t always look or sound like false prophets at first. They are “deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Paul said in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

Much of the OT warns against false prophets. In one place, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD'” (Jeremiah 23:16).

The NT warns of false prophets and teachers as well. In her book Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity, Alisa Childers writes: “Much of the New Testament, including the entire book of Jude, is dedicated to helping Christians watch out for, recognize, and avoid these sheep-clothed wolves. In researching some of these passages, I discovered that the topic of false teachers and false teaching is addressed directly in twenty-two of twenty-seven New Testament books. Encouragement to keep the true faith and to practice discernment is mentioned in every single one.”

The Bible warns that false teachers will not only come in from the outside, but they’ll arise from within the congregation. In Paul’s farewell message to the elders at Ephesus, he warned, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert,” (Acts 20:29-31a). Peter warned about false teachers arising “among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1-3). This was what happened to Alisa Childers, whose book I mentioned. Her own trusted pastor began undermining longstanding doctrines of the faith.

The Bible gives us the responsibility to watch out for false doctrine. I’ve already mentioned Paul’s admonition to “be alert” in Acts 20:31. Jesus began warnings about false teachers with the word “Beware.” Paul says elsewhere, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

I don’t think this means we need to become unduly suspicious of one another. But we study the Word of God and check whatever we’re taught against it. The Bereans in Acts were called noble because they did this with Paul’s teaching. Alisa followed their example and searched for the truth, nailing down why she believed what she did.

After Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders, he said, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). When he wrote to the Ephesians later, he said God had given the church gifts in “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” in order “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:12-14).

So while we don’t need to get paranoid, we do need to be alert. And we remember that we don’t come to the Bible just for affirmation or comfort or warm fuzzies. We come to it to find truth about and from God. We study God’s Word for ourselves and with others, and as we grow in spiritual maturity, we won’t be deceived and tossed about.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

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Here’s another round-up of thoughtful reads.

God Sees the Whole Picture, HT to Challies. “Sometimes our dots line up, and we connect one to the other and the picture is clear. We see what God was trying to do and we say, ‘Oh, I get it. That’s why that had to happen that way.’ That’s why the tire was flat. That’s why I got sick. That’s why I lost my job. ‘Now I understand.’ But other times none of it makes sense. We wait for God to tie up the ends and put a bow on it so we can look at a completed package with spiritual satisfaction, admire the intricate workings of God and justify His actions. But He doesn’t and it doesn’t.”

Wise People Don’t Believe the Best About Everyone. “Heart-broken parents have told me, ‘I didn’t think my parents would hurt their own grandchildren.’ Yet those same parents abused the adults that sat before me when they were children. If they harmed their own child, why would they be different with their grandchild? Discernment feels mean to some people. They don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. They think good people believe the best. Yet, that is not what Christ practiced.”

Her Weakness Is Her Strength. “Regardless of the cause or degree of the weakness, these are the ones who are to be the special objects of our love, protection, and affection. These are the ones we must accept as a special gift of God to the church. It is to the weakest that we owe the greatest honor, to the frailest that we owe the greatest allegiance, to the ones most likely to be overlooked that we owe the greatest attention.”

You Can Obey, HT to Challies. “We thank Jesus that he came, died for us and transferred his perfect life to our account. And then we can think that we won’t be perfect until glory so we kind of give up trying. Sinners gonna sin, innit.”

6 Truths to Cling to While You’re Praying for Your Prodigal. “God knows exactly where your child is. He has the power to engineer circumstances large and small to pursue your child and draw him or her to Himself. Sometimes the goodness of God leads men to repentance (Rom. 2:4), and sometimes His judgment breaks their stony wills. We can trust God to know which is most effective.”

Why You Still Need the Church Even If You Have Been Hurt by It, HT to Challies. “Yes, we’re imperfect, but imagine how much Jesus must love his people to continue to meet with them despite their blemishes. It’s that same love that Jesus offers you, wounds and all.”

No, I’m Not a Pro: How to Parent Our Children’s Souls, HT to Challies. “My children are immortal beings with eternal souls. I would say this takes my breath away, but I don’t want to give the wrong impression. It feels less like witnessing a pretty sunset at the beach and more like standing at the precipice of a mountain. The view is incredible but my sense of helplessness at the top of sheer rock is almost overwhelming. To be entrusted with the care of souls is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. It is a holy task.”

All of Our Opinions All of the Time, HT to Challies. “I’m not offering an opinion on whether or not Will Smith smacking Chris Rock was okay, I’m offering an opinion on why we should hesitate hopping in on the controversy of the day. . . ‘Is it necessary that every single person on this planet um, expresses every single opinion that they have on every single thing that occurs all at the same time?'”

When Motherhood Goes Unnoticed, HT to The Story Warren. “Our motherhood often goes unnoticed, and we can easily believe the lie that the work of it all isn’t worthy. There are seasons where our faithfulness seems fruitless, our efforts never enough. There is no actual ‘mom-of-the-year’ award, but we all long for it and constantly feel like we fall short. Our hearts are weary, and no one seems to care. But Scripture offers a different perspective and a greater hope than any outward praise and recognition can offer.”

Finally, this is an amazing piece of film work about an amazing phenomenon: time lapse of a spring garden blooming.

Happy Saturday!

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A short but meaty list of good reads from this week:

There Are No Shortcuts to biblical discernment. HT to Challies.

A Christian Response to Riots Left and Right. “Peaceful protest is a protected right in this country, rioting is not. Let’s set the politics aside and consider the biblical principles for a moment.”

More than Sexual Purity, HT to Challies. “The unintentional message over time was that this was spiritual maturity: consistent devotions and sexual purity. By setting such a low bar for men, though, we inevitably train men to be lazy, selfish, insecure, and ambitionless. We raise a generation of men to check spiritual boxes and then live for Xbox. But men are capable of so much more in Christ than Bible reading and self-control (not to diminish either).”

When Your Identity Becomes a Liability: 4 Responses to Unjust Suffering. I fear the days are coming when we’ll need this.

An Illustration of Repentance, HT to Challies. I found this helpful in understanding why there’s not always instant outward change when we seek repentance.

Dignity Beyond Accomplishment, HT to Challies. “She loves her life. She loves her life even though she will, like most Americans, never finish an Ironman. But that does not finally matter. Human life is good and worthy of dignity not because of accomplishment, but simply because it is loved into being by God.”

Though I don’t like parents lying to kids, even for fun, I love this little boy’s response to hearing that his mom ate all his candy. I wonder, though, what the mom was expecting and why she would do this.

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Here are several good reads recently discovered:

Don’t Overthink It Book Club. Linda is hosting a three-week book club on Sunday evenings to discuss Anne Bogel’s book Don’t Overthink It. I just finished chapter four this morning, and the book is proving very helpful so far. At the moment, it’s on sale for the Kindle for $1.59—don’t know how long it will be at that price.

Be a Truth-Lover. “Your love for truth must be greater than your party, your political pre-commitments, and your agenda.”

He Is a Jealous God. “If the United States of America ceased to exist tomorrow, would that be the end of our belief in the God that we claim to hold so dear? Or do we have a faith that extends beyond the bounds of country, of comfort, of confidence in the systems of this world?

A Call for Content Creators to Cultivate Discernment, HT to Challies. “But beautiful language, by itself, does not encompass all that it means to write well as a Christian. Christian writers must labor not only to write what is true but also to write in a manner that adorns the truth.”

Remembering God’s Faithfulness in the Face of a Detour, HT to Challies. “How about you? Do you trust God’s faithfulness to deliver again in the midst of your daily detours?”

Five Key Questions for Setting Gospel-Shaped Goals, HT to The Story Warren. “It was an apt senior quote for the young perfectionist, who keenly felt her failure to ‘obtain all this,’ who knew how short she fell in every area where she longed to succeed. Sadly, that seventeen-year-old senior, who had only been a Christian for two years when she chose Philippians 3:12 to mark her life, didn’t fully understand the dynamic of grace and goals.”

Stupid and Wise People. “There will always be those with whom we cannot agree or come to a compromise. We cannot control their actions but we can control our own reactions and choices.”

Your Work Matters More Than You Think, HT to Challies. “God puts his people in some surprising places. The testimony of Obadiah can encourage Christians who have been called to serve God in dark places for His purposes.” I enjoyed this contrast between Obadiah and Elijah.

A Blog about Blogging, HT to Challies. Good overview for Christian bloggers in particular.

Tookish Bagginses. Lessons from hobbits. “Because nowness and not-yet-ness overlap and intermingle. God made us out of dust, but he also breathed eternity down our lungs. We’re a walking marriage of the sacred and the profane— the eternal and the ordinary. We’re Bagginses with the blood of Tooks who’ve been to Mordor and back again.”

This is as good a time as any for my occasional reminder that links here do not mean 100% endorsement of the blog or blogger they come from. Some of these are from blogs I read regularly, but others are from posts I happened upon or saw on other’s blogs.

Finally, to end with a smile: a cat interrupts a UK parliamentary live call:

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I’ve rounded up some thought-provoking reading from the last couple of weeks:

Help Me to See Sin as You See It.

What Does It Mean to Find My Hope in Christ? HT to The Story Warren.

7 Mistakes We Make in Women’s Bible Study.

A Stranger’s Gift.

What I Learned About Marriage by Losing My Husband.

Three Steps to Better Doctrinal Disagreements, HT to Challies.

I Was a Disney Princess, I Had an Abortion, and It Almost Ruined My Life, HT to Challies.

Racial Reconciliation: What We (Mostly, Almost) All Agree On, and What We (Likely) Still Don’t Agree On, HT to Challies. Kevin DeYoung did a good job here of laying out the complexity of the issues. This is why one-sided, simplistic suggestions for solutions are not helpful.

Discernment muscles. This is so important to teach our children.

6 Graces…For When We Are Our Own Harshest Taskmasters.

4 Ways to Take Your Time Management to the Next Level. “Balancing the tyranny of tasks and the tenderness of meaningful relationships continues to be my walk on the razor’s edge. The prudent use of little minutes requires a few good practices that become habits over time.”

The Theology and True-Life Tragedy behind Hallmark’s Hit Show, “When Calls the Heart”, HT to Challies. I have not seen this show, but years ago I read the series on which they were based, written by Janette Oke. She began my love for Christian fiction. “If you give your life to Jesus, Oke believed, you can know how much he loves you, and his love can comfort when life is hard. This is the theology Oke put in her romance novels…It was Augustinianism in a bonnet, in a made-up prairie patois. It was evangelicalism for the everyday lives of women who knew how life could be. It was a story for all those who are weary and burdened, who just wanted to give the weight of their lives over to Jesus.”

How to Save Your Privacy From the Internet’s Clutches, HT to Challies. Scary! And I admit I don’t understand a great deal of what’s discussed here.

And lastly, most of us are able to identify with this, especially this year! (Seen on Facebook – don’t know the original source.)

Happy Saturday!

(Links do not imply 100% endorsement.)

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It’s later in the day than I usually post these, but here are a few good reads discovered in the last week:

Today, More Than Ever, Read Beyond the Headlines. Yes! And the Twitter feeds.

Hard Evidence for a Supernatural Book.

Those Spiritual Gift Tests? Maybe You Ought to Ignore Them.

Please Stop Saying “Christianity Isn’t a Religion, It’s a Relationship” HT to Challies.

10 Suggestions for new Bible College Students, HT to Challies.

White Christian conservatives should oppose protests by white supremacists.

On Waiting and the Lord of the Rings.

Redeeming Princess Culture, HT to Story Warren.

And something from Pinterest that resonated with me:

The Rock higher than I