A blog about everything about teaching the Bible. "And still I will show you a more excellent way..." (1 Corinthians 12:31).

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

It's SBV Time!

This Saturday marks the kickoff of our special summer kids’ program in our Bible classes. Instead of one or a few days of VBS (Vacation Bible School), we have a whole summer of SBV (Summer Bible Vacation) every Sunday and Wednesday! We do it this way for several reasons.

For a long time I was troubled by how enormous an effort went into VBS for only one or a few days’ worth of teaching. It seemed to me like it had been decades since the work equaled the payoff. Committee members and I discussed ideas for a couple of years before we landed where we are. A lot of congregations are moving away from the traditional model of “Sunday School.” While in the initial planning phase of our program, a group of us toured the facilities of a couple of congregations in our area that were doing new things with their education programs. We liked the idea of kids rotating through stations to learn in a variety of ways, utilizing all the senses and learning styles, and benefiting from repetition of important principles. Some churches do Bible class that way all year. We decided there are some benefits of the traditional program we aren’t willing to sacrifice, so we adopted the rotation model for our summer program at Highland and it worked great last year.

We aim to accomplish three goals with our special summer program. First, we want the kids to learn the lessons well. Appealing to all learning styles, utilizing all five senses, and allowing for new and interesting ways to repeat important things helps them do that. Second, we want to encourage involvement. We only have four lessons in the summer, each broken down into six stations through which kids rotate from Sunday to Wednesday and so on. We’re offering a good reason for families to come to class both Sundays and Wednesdays. We’re trying to make it well worth your time! Third, we want our education program to be evangelistic. We want to offer church members more and more reasons to invite friends and family to Bible class. The method changes we’ve made have helped our program to grow by about 15% over the last year-and-a-half or so, and the best is yet to come!

It takes a lot of volunteers to keep our education program rolling along at Highland. I’d love to talk to you about how you can be part of the great things we’re doing for Jesus. I hope you’re making plans to be with us for the kickoff Saturday from 10 to 2, and each Sunday and Wednesday all Summer long!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

(Family Devotional) Jesus Wanted to Know

“After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (Luke 2:46-47 ESV).

There are many things we can’t know about how Jesus existed from all eternity as the Living Word of God (John 1:1, 14) and then allowed himself to be placed in Mary’s womb and be born. We know he did it though. God wanted us to understand. Maybe he wanted us to know he understands. He wanted us to see what it looks like to be truly human—really godly. He wanted us to know him, so he sent his Son, exactly like God the Father in every way (John 14:6-11), to become flesh and dwell among us. Thank you Lord!

Jesus wasn’t born able to walk and talk. He was a helpless baby just like the rest of us. He had to be a kid—to feel growing pains and experience the world just as we all do. He even had to obey his parents, because that was the Law (Luke 2:51). Yet, Luke 2 gives us a look at Jesus halfway through the growing up process. Twelve years old; Jesus was at the Temple. He was so engrossed in learning about his father that he didn’t even know where his parents were and they left Jerusalem and travelled for a full day before they knew he wasn’t somewhere in the group in which they were travelling. When Joseph and Mary finally found him he was both asking questions and answering them with the teachers and lawyers in the Temple. He was twelve!

I’m sure just like all kids Jesus liked to have fun. No doubt he had friends in the company of people who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem with whom he could have walked and talked about all the cool things Jewish boys talked about in the mid 1st Century. No doubt he did that sometimes. But given the opportunity to learn more about God, that was Jesus’ choice hands down! Jesus had a deep hunger to know God. He wanted to know—then—not later when he grew up.

Parents, use every means at your disposal to help your children learn everything about God they can. Knowing the truth leads to salvation (2Thessalonians 2:13). Family devotional time is invaluable. Try picking up an age-appropriate Bible study aid and have your child read or work through it over the Summer. Come to Bible class every time it’s in session. Find a faithful church of Christ with teachers and preachers who teach the whole Bible and bring the questions on! Continually lead your children to study the Bible and in time their answers may amaze you!

May the Lord bless your family devotionals!

“Didn't God create you to become like one person with your wife? And why did he do this? It was so you would have children, and then lead them to become God's people. Don't ever be unfaithful to your wife” (Malachi 2:15 CEV).

Image: Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Knowing is Half the Battle!

At the end of every episode of G.I. Joe one or more of the cartoon characters would appear with some moral-of-the-story-type message to impart, and always ended by saying, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.” As a glued-to-the-tube kid, that phrase was etched into my memory. Is it true though?

What you don’t know can hurt you! No doubt about that. I remember the old Loony Tunes cartoons that came on Saturday mornings in my childhood. I loved the episodes in which Bugs Bunny would walk out onto thin air pursued by Elmer Fudd. Unfortunately for Fudd, he had studied gravity and so would fall every time down, down, down until you saw the telltale little puff of dust at the bottom of the gorge. Lucky for Bugs, he hadn’t studied gravity, and so could just hop back off of thin air to the safety of the cliff’s edge and walk away. If only it worked like that in real life, we could all just turn a blind eye to any form of education and float along impervious to danger.

But we all know it doesn’t work like that in real life. The less you know the more vulnerable you are to all types of danger. The more you know the more prepared you are to face whatever comes. You have to act on what you know, of course, that’s wisdom, but having the knowledge you need really is half the battle. You can’t avoid a danger you don’t know about, and you won’t enjoy blessings you don’t know how and where to get.

The prophet Hosea wrote these words from God: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6a ESV). Just as there are physical blessings and dangers, so also there are spiritual ones. Without knowledge of the truth you cannot hope to walk the spiritual pathway safely (1Timothy 2:4). In Hosea’s day, the people didn’t know what they needed to know, and it cost them everything. Do you know the truth?
---JLP

Image: Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, May 21, 2011

(Family Devotional) Never Forget Where You Come From!

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV).

It’s no accident you were born. God knew who you would be from all eternity. Whenever you’re tempted to think you don’t matter much, remember where you come from instead. You’re a son or daughter of God!

In one of the most famous Psalms in the Bible, David sings, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalms 8:3-4 ESV). Recognizing God made everything in Creation for us, David was astounded. This is a wondrous, beautiful Universe, and our planet is filled with things that can make our lives good. God did this for us? Who are we? –Well, the answer is, we’re God’s children (Acts 17:28)!

In another Psalm David sang out: “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:14-16).

Think about how wonderfully God made you! Hands, feet, eyes, ears… A mouth with teeth and tongue connected to your stomach with acid that helps dissolve food (conveniently equipped with an acid-proof lining). Brains and bones and miles of blood vessels… Your mind and conscience—these, more than anything else about you are like God. God made you and one way or another you’ll go to meet him. So, never forget where you come from. Live like a son or daughter of God: with purpose, honorably, righteously.

Suggestions:

Make sure your children understand being made in God’s likeness doesn’t mean our physical bodies, but rather our minds and spirits. Talk about what it means to you to know God made you and loves you.

May the Lord bless your family devotionals!

“Didn't God create you to become like one person with your wife? And why did he do this? It was so you would have children, and then lead them to become God's people. Don't ever be unfaithful to your wife” (Malachi 2:15 CEV).

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In The Beginning God

Somewhere around 28⁰N of the equator and 33⁰E of the prime meridian, about 2,500 years ago, the old man Moses sat in his tent. Pen in calloused hand he scratched the characters of the Hebrew tongue upon a scroll. “In the beginning God…” The wind blew dust against the outside of his tent. The din of thousands of people camped together in close proximity was a dull roar. Near his seat, burning frankincense sent its fragrant smoke up in a plume that thinned into a rolling cloud searching this way and that for an escape through the ceiling. The Man Moses was oblivious to it all for the words of Almighty God burned through his mind. He wrote them reverently.

The Israelites had become a nation mightier than even they supposed, and since of all the gods of all the nations theirs was the only true and living God, they were indeed stronger than any other people. But they had lived in bondage for four centuries while it seemed the promises to their forefather Abraham slumbered. Many of them had idols in their hearts, and some among the rest were proud or faithless. They were weak in spirit; plagued with doubts. Even those whose hearts were wholly God’s to mold and lead needed answers. All humanity needed answers. We still do. So God led Moses to write, “In the beginning God.”

Perhaps the most profound point in the first chapter of the Bible is those four words. The one truth that undergirds all others is God. He is truth. He is reality. He is right and good and he is eternity. When this universe wasn’t, God was. God is the constant, eternal, unchangeable reality in the present and in both directions. Our search for meaning starts with God. Creation is his possession. Morality is his reflection. Scripture is his expression. We are his children (Acts 17:28). The journey of your life—your entire quest for wisdom, knowledge, meaning, and eternal life is about your relationship with him. And just like the Bible it starts with those four words, “In the beginning God!”

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, May 14, 2011

(Family Devotional) Jesus Is Your Life

“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4 ESV).
It’s not uncommon for someone to say something is his or her life. For instance, a hockey fan might say, “Hockey is my life!” It just means the person likes hockey an awful lot. Sometimes people even say somebody else is their life, like a movie star, singer, or professional athlete. More and more these days, people are saying we shouldn’t want to be like anybody else—that we should just be ourselves.

If you want to, you can make anything be your life. Baseball can be your life, or music, or art. You can decide to be obsessed with someone famous, or just someone you like, or even with yourself. The point is your life will be about something. We all devote ourselves to something or someone. What we each need to do is ask whether what we’re devoting the best of our time, talent, and money to is worth it.

When a friend learns something you like that he or she doesn’t care for, he might jokingly say, “Get a life!” He doesn’t mean you’re not alive, he means you’re wasting your time. Whether he’s right or not, it’s worth thinking about. Do I have a life? Are the things to which I’m devoting my life helping me to live it to the full? More importantly, ask, “Am I living a life of eternal significance?” The Bible says Jesus is your life. It’s certainly true you won’t live forever unless you’ve put your faith in him. But, the statement means more than that. It means Christ is what life is all about. Being consumed with him is really living. We all ought to be able to say, “Jesus is my life!”

Suggestions:

Have a family talk about your priorities and about the things you really love in life. Compare them to the blessing of knowing Jesus and having salvation in him. Discuss ways you can make Jesus what your life is all about.

May the Lord bless your family devotionals!

“Didn't God create you to become like one person with your wife? And why did he do this? It was so you would have children, and then lead them to become God's people. Don't ever be unfaithful to your wife” (Malachi 2:15 CEV).

Made for Obsession

Everybody’s a fan of something. Not everybody realizes the word means fanatic. In our day it’s ok to be fanatical about anything except religion. Truth is religion is the only thing worth being fanatical about. I’m a fan of Jesus. I’m not really a fan of anything or anyone else. Don’t misunderstand me. In the watered-down sense of the word I’m a fan of a lot of stuff, meaning I like lots of stuff, but my fanaticism won’t be wasted on an author, sports team, artist, or even a flag. It’s reserved for the King and him alone!

Another byword of our time is obsession. If you’re obsessed with fashion, peachy, but if you’re obsessed with the Bible… you know what I’m saying. Mankind is prone to obsession. We want and need to be immersed and consumed with love for something or someone. It’s perfectly natural for us to be addicted. We want to be caught up in something great that makes us feel happy and secure. When we believe we’ve found that thing, we want it more and more and more. We were made for obsession! It’s a natural thing that isn’t bad in itself, if properly directed, but it’s subject to abuse.

Satan’s entire aim is to lure each of us to indulge in something forbidden, believe a lie, rebel, rationalize—whatever is contrary to the truth (John 17:17; Romans 2:6-8)—and then to get us hopelessly hooked! (James 1:14-15). In a class at HCU, bro. David Warren illustrated it this way (and I paraphrase): “God made fish with the instinct to swallow shiny, wiggly things moving through the water. The instinct puts food in its belly. It’s a good instinct, but we use it against the fish. We make shiny little wiggly things, put a hook in it and attach it to a line. That’s what Satan does to us. Our wants and needs as God made them are good, but the Devil misuses them. He dangles things in front of us that look good or look like they would feel good and wants us to think they are good when there’s actually a hook and line attached. We’ve got to learn to look for the hook and line.” I hope you get that, because it’s brilliant!

Ever tried to hook a fish already snagged on someone else’s line? Think about it. If I hook a fish on my line you can cast in the best bait available and the fish isn’t going to go for it. It’s already hooked! This concept is our only defense against enslavement to sin. Get on Jesus’ line, in his net, fold, flock, on his side, in his camp—however you want to word it, just do it. When you’re utterly obsessed with the Savior, Satan can’t touch you (James 4:7-8). And what do I mean by utterly obsessed? I’ll finish with a passage about the spiritual warfare in which Christians are involved. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV).

We were made to be obsessed with Jesus. Every action. Every word. Every thought. That is the path of freedom and blessing and there is no other!

Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Overcoming Addictions

It’s hard to break addictions, because, well, we wouldn’t call them addictions if it were easy to stop! I speak from experience. I have what we call an addictive personality. I’m convinced we all do. I spent the majority of my teenage years and the first couple of my twenties addicted. I was addicted to cigarettes. I was a drug addict. I was addicted to anything and everything that provided an escape from the troubles of life. It was a destructive lifestyle and a period of time I mostly wish I could forget.

I kicked those habits “cold-turkey.” However, I want to warn anyone who thinks he can sow his wild oats and emerge unscathed that when you let the Devil get his claws in you, the best you can hope for is scars. He doesn’t let go easily. Living in his service pays well, it’s just that you don’t want the wages (Romans 6:23). Addiction to anything of this world cannot offer life, but only steals it!

I want to offer what that I’ve learned about kicking bad habits. If you’re struggling, maybe it will help.

Addiction is a control issue. The prevalent idea is the addict isn’t in control of his actions. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The addict is in complete control. He simply chooses to pursue his addiction with all his heart. He believes he’s getting a payoff that’s worth whatever sacrifice he has to make along the way. The addict feels he’s in control because each use offers instant happiness. But, it’s fleeting. I remember waking up each morning unable to be happy until I had the substance I desired. I had convinced myself it was what I really wanted. That was the Devil’s lie. It was counterfeit happiness that was always elusive. A brother trained as a counselor once told me addiction is like rummaging through a room of empty boxes—always searching; never finding. When (if) the addict wakes up and realizes the truth that the poison is actually stealing happiness, there’s hope.

Think you’re not controlling your addictions? I’ll tell you the story of how I quit smoking cigarettes. I started having lung problems each morning. I would wake up coughing; lungs hurting. Add to that the rising cost of cigarettes and I started rationing them. I wasn’t thinking of quitting at the time. I was smoking a pack a day or more. I decided I’d make it on half a pack a day: five at work, five at home. That was a challenge at first, but I just told myself things like, “Just another half hour and I can have one.” I did that for weeks. One evening it dawned on me, “I’m in control of this. I decide when to smoke and when not to.” As soon as I realized it was entirely under my control I knew I could quit, and I did. I prayed for strength before bed determined never to smoke again, and woke up the next morning with an answered prayer. While one may need to seek medical attention to deal with the painful withdrawals from addictions to substances like alcohol and heroin, the process is the same. Every time you use, you make the decision to use and you are in control! The tough part is coming to the light to see the lie for what it is and realizing it isn’t what you want to do anymore. Pray to God about it.

I’ll try to wrap this up. You’ll need help to stay on the path of freedom and blessing. Search your heart and find out what pain you’re trying to escape from. Deal with that, and the need to “medicate” symptoms will decrease. Make yourself accountable to trustworthy people who will help you along the way. This is one of the roles the church provides. Be open and transparent. Keeping your problem a secret will force you to live a lie in the shadows of Satan’s power. Walk in the light of openness, honest about your struggles and the power of Jesus will help you overcome. Remove sources of temptation from your life. Whatever, wherever, whoever makes you weak has got to go—yesterday! Fill your life with sources of strength, accountability and encouragement. Finally, you never break a habit, you replace it. Try getting hooked on ministry instead!

Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How Much is Too Much?

Just about anything can become an addiction! To start with, anything sinful will own you if you indulge in it. Paul wrote of the purpose of salvation in Christ in this way: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6 ESV). Key words: “no longer.” If you’re not in Christ, you are enslaved to sin—addicted to sinning.

Even some (perhaps many) Christians—in spite of God’s grace—persist in sin-addiction that can and will bring them to ruin if something doesn’t change. Again, note the words of the Holy Spirit through Paul: ‘”All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV). Some among Paul’s original audience were taking grace to an ungodly extreme, and though he could’ve hit the misled brethren head on with hard truth, Paul chose to appeal to their common sense. The confused Corinthians were thinking God’s grace gave them license to do (more or less) whatever they wanted. They were wrong, of course. My paraphrased interpretation of Paul’s response is something like, “Hold on, even if all things were ‘lawful,’ that wouldn’t mean they were all the best things to do. Oh, and, if it gets you hooked and starts driving you, it isn’t good no matter what.”

That brings me to another important point. All sin is addictive, but just about anything else that isn’t sinful can become your addiction if you let it. Think about it! How many people are addicted to games, their favorite sports team, some type of music or another, food, etc.? None of these things are bad, but if your participation in any becomes obsessive, you may be in trouble. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1 ESV). Sin indeed clings closely—too closely. But, there are other things that “weight” you down. For many people these may well be more dangerous to their souls than “the seven deadly sins.” Lust, greed and pride—well, they’re obviously wrong, but sports? Games? Shopping? To be clear, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with these in themselves, if pursued with balance, but when an obsession forms, it takes time and energy away from the things God would have us pursue, and that makes us unfruitful in his service by causing us to fail to do what we ought to do. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17 ESV). Make sense?

So, how much is too much? If it isn’t sinful to start with you’ll ultimately have to decide, but hours of TV every day is a wasted life and I wouldn’t want to face God in Judgment with that to try to explain. I just ask anyone who reads this to look honestly at your own life and decide what you’re hooked on. Then, if you need to make a change, I hope you’ll think about that. I’d be glad to help if I can.

Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, May 9, 2011

Addicted to Ministry

Not all addictions are bad! Consider this: “Now I urge you, brothers--you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints— be subject to such as these, and to every fellow worker and laborer” (1 Corinthians 16:15-16 ESV). The old King James words it, “They have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” Would you call yourself addicted to ministry?

Truth is we all struggle with addictions. You may or may not struggle with the “big three” (sex, drugs and alcohol), but there’s something in your life you just can’t seem to get enough of, and if you have it your way that’s what you’ll spend most of your time and energy pursuing. What matters is whether or not your addiction is a blessing or a curse. Is it a saintly obsession or is it sin?

What a commendation of Stephanas and company! They were fully dedicated to the Lord’s work, particularly to serving the saints, which means they wanted to serve their brothers and sisters in Christ so badly that it was what they spent most of their time and all their best efforts pursuing. It’s people like that that deserve our submission. Those who want to serve others with a burning obsession are the only people truly worthy of the mantle of leadership! Paul said, “Be subject to such as these….”

So, what are you hooked on? Think about this today, and as I write about addiction and obsession this week. Be honest with yourself. I echo brother Paul’s challenge, zero in on those you know who are hooked on the Lord’s work and put yourself at their disposal. They’ll help you find a fruitful place in the kingdom, and just maybe some of their zeal will rub off on you!

Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, May 7, 2011

(Family Devotional) Jesus Cared for his Mother

“When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, ‘Woman, he is your son.’ And he said to this disciple, ‘She is your mother.’ And from then on this disciple took her into his home.” –John 19:26-27(NLT).

The Bible has a lot to say about how children must honor their parents, and as parents take care of their children when they’re young, it’s up to the children to take care of their parents when they get old. The word “honor” isn’t just about respect and obedience either; it includes putting your money where your mouth is! Say ma’am and sir to your mom and dad for sure, but it’s even more important for you to show your love and appreciation for all they’ve done and given for you by being willing to do and give for them in return!

Paul wrote, “Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God” (1 Timothy 5:3-4 ESV). The commandment for children to honor father and mother is the first commandment God ever gave with a promise attached to it (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2-3). Obey the commandment and God says things will go well with you!

We should follow everything the Bible says to us about how to treat our parents, but nothing speaks as loud as Jesus’ example. He’s perfect! Imitating him is always right! Jesus loved his mother, and when he knew for all practical purposes his time on this earth was done, he saw to it his mother was going to be taken care of. As children, let’s follow Jesus and honor our fathers and mothers by being willing to lovingly do whatever it takes to show how much we appreciate what they’ve done for us.

Suggestions:

Talk frankly about ageing and the challenges that come with it. Discuss the responsibility children have to care for their aging relatives and talk about ways to make it easier for each other both now and then.

May the Lord bless your family devotionals!

“Didn't God create you to become like one person with your wife? And why did he do this? It was so you would have children, and then lead them to become God's people. Don't ever be unfaithful to your wife” (Malachi 2:15 CEV).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Keepers of Morals

A number of years ago I heard a sermon from brother David Pharr in which he argued women are largely the keepers of morals in society. I found his points fascinating. While I’m not certain this is so much a point from Scripture (and I don’t recall brother Pharr saying so, either), it does seem to be in line with observation—at least on some levels.

Ever since Adam and Eve walked the pathways of Eden together, men have been enamored with the beauty of God’s daughters. Women are normally physically inferior to men as far as endurance and power are concerned. (This has been more universally evident in less prosperous eras.) But, women have a physical power of a different sort. Even a moderately attractive woman can command the attention of many of the men around her, and most unmarried men desire nothing more than to win the affection of a pretty lady.

Sadly, the days of courtship seem to be gone in Western Civilization. In former days would-be suitors sought to win woman’s love with gifts and acts of gallantry. A man protected his reputation and proved his worth not only to maiden, but to her father and family too, by working hard and acting honorably. We need to resurrect courtship and dispense with this largely degenerate concept of dating which often leads to impurity, and thus pain.

What does a man have to do to win the hand of fair maid these days? Wear his hat sideways? Get a few tattoos? Be able to handle his liquor better than his comrades? Win a fight or two? Maybe he has to have a shiny new car or a muscular build? In most circumstances, he’ll do what he thinks he has to do to get the girl, and if that means girls don’t dig “gangstas” with no job and even less of a future, well, let’s just say it’ll go out of style.

Disclaimer time: I’m not saying women can change the hearts of men. Each of us will be who and what we decide to be. Never assume you can change somebody. The only person any of us can control is ourselves. Nor am I saying men have nothing to do with the morals of society. They have everything to do with it. In spite of all the efforts of nearly two centuries of feminism, men still largely rule the world—just saying. What I am saying is that the feminist movement hasn’t accomplished its goal of empowering young women. As a group they seem to me to have less self-esteem than ever! It doesn’t cease to shock me how low the standards of some perfectly intelligent young women are with regard to their choices in men (or boys, as it often seems to be the case). I’m saying to my sisters out there that it’s better never to have loved than to have loved a worthless man who won’t work, is addicted to everything under the sun, and somehow thinks you should pay all his bills! What’s manly about any of that? What I’m urging my sisters to do is to refuse to date or court, and certainly to marry anything less than a real Christian man!

What brother Pharr said that has stuck with me all these years, and what I’m trying to echo now is that women have enormous power to maintain a high moral standard in society. We men want you to like us. Enough said. Now, what do you think?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Preserved in Childbearing

Since we’re on the subject of mothers this week, I thought I’d tackle one of the more difficult passages in the Bible. I offer a fair warning that what you’re about to read isn’t politically correct, but it is Biblically correct. “Let he (and she) who has ears to hear, listen.” For the sake of brevity, I’ll use only its most immediate context:

“(11) Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. (12) I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (13) For Adam was formed first, then Eve; (14) and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (15) Yet she will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control” (1Timothy 2:11-15 ESV).

A bit more of the context starts with verse 8. It’s where Paul starts talking about men and women specifically. Timothy was ministering to the church in Ephesus when Paul wrote. The church there was having problems with the roles of men and women in the assembly of the church. Ancient Ephesus was host to the temple of Diana, or Artemis, a false goddess often pictured as a beastlike female with multiple breasts. The temple was served by priestesses and castrated male priests, and the dogma of the cult was emasculating. I’m being intentionally brief.

To make things easier so I can cut to the chase, the ESV Study Bible (which is generally good, but which notes I find to be mistaken on some points) says this about the greater context of 1Timothy 2:1-15: “In describing life that properly emerges from the gospel, Paul first mentions prayer for the salvation of all people. This also leads to a discussion of godly living and appropriate behavior in corporate worship, particularly unity, modesty, and proper submission.” (Incidentally, I agree with the ESV Study Bible’s notes about 1Timothy 2 in almost every respect.)

I’m not here trying to defend what I understand to be Biblical that women are forbidden to teach or exercise authority in the assembly of the church (that is in the presence of men). That’s a subject for another time. I believe it’s an obvious point. It is to be understood as Paul’s meaning if we are to begin to approach understanding verse 15. Verses 13-14 aren’t meant to insult women. The point is rather less flattering to Adam than to Eve. The point, I think, is Eve was deceived, but Adam sinned willfully.

So, with this in mind, what does it mean that, “She will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control”?

The ESV Study Bible says, “This is a notoriously difficult-to-understand verse. Paul clearly does not believe people can be saved in the sense of earning justification through childbearing or any other means (e.g., Eph. 2:8–9). But the NT can also use the term ‘saved’ (Gk. sōzō) in the sense of progressively coming to experience all the aspects of salvation. In that sense, ‘salvation’ is ongoing (see note on Phil. 2:12–13). A similar view is that ‘saved’ can be understood as referring especially to the endurance and perseverance in faith that is necessary for eternal salvation (cf. Matt. 10:22; 24:13; etc.). People are saved as they persevere (continue) in the faith to carry out the Lord's calling in their life, one example being the unique role of women in childbearing. (The change from singular she to plural they is a literal rendering of the Gk. text.)”

Burton Coffman wrote, “All kinds of fanciful interpretations of this verse have been advocated; but, in all probability, ‘child-bearing’ is a synecdoche for ‘the entire status of women in their relationship to God and men.’ Dummelow was correct in seeing the meaning thus: ‘The woman shall be saved by keeping simply and faithfully to her allotted sphere as wife and mother.’ There is no reference to the birth of Christ, nor to any promise of salvation based solely upon the biological function of child-bearing.”

I don’t think the “progressively coming to experience all the aspects of salvation” thing is relevant to verse 15, but with the rest of what the ESV Study Bible says, and especially with what bro. Coffman wrote, I think I agree.

The Bible is pretty clear throughout that God intends distinct roles for men and women in this life. A woman’s role is naturally, and should usually be that of wife and mother, and she ought to find satisfaction and fulfillment in this role. It does not mean she cannot pursue a career and work outside the home (Proverbs 31:18, 24), but it does mean her best life will not come from being a career woman. The passage does not require a barren woman to somehow procure children to raise, nor does it require a woman with no interest in marriage to get married (1Corinthians 7:6-9). What the passage says is that God’s design is for Christian women to serve him first and foremost as faithful wife to her Christian husband (if married), and godly mother to her children (if she has any). Her role will never be that of elder or preacher to the church, nor is it likely she will lead in world evangelism among the lost. Her best life comes through “learning quietly with all submissiveness” as she seeks to nurture and support the most valuable assets of the church: families and the little children growing into faithfulness within them.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Thank You Christian Mothers!

Thank you Christian mothers! You exemplify what God’s mission is all about. We children appreciate your willingness to sacrifice what you want to make sure your family has what they need. We appreciate the gray hairs you worry into existence, and no, none of us have been looking to see if the roots are showing! The color is holding up perfectly! We thank you for all the tears, and apologize for causing them. More than anything, we appreciate your faithfulness, the nurturing, teaching, and for demanding that we follow him too. A Christian mother’s love is deeper than the ocean, wider than the sky, richer than diamonds, and lasts longer than time. When pure, it’s a lot like God’s love. Thank you!

The role of mother is essential to God’s plan for us. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it! It comes with the promise of pain (Genesis 3:16; John 16:21a). If done faithfully, with God’s help, it will surely be worth it (John 16:21b; Proverbs 31:28ff). Good mothers like Timothy’s have as much to do with raising godly people and spreading the truth as anyone (2Timothy 1:5). They say, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” and in so many ways it’s true! I urge you, sisters, use the power of influence God gives you to lead your children to obey the Lord as the highest purpose in life (Ecclesiastes 12:13). If you’re not a faithful Christian, I urge you to view your role as mother from an eternal perspective and hope you’ll realize you can give no gift to your children greater than a mother who follows Jesus!

So, with “Mother’s Day” coming up this Sunday, I want to encourage all my sisters in Christ who are mothers. You fill a deeply important role. You bear in your wombs, and nurture into the strength of manhood the next generation of preachers, elders, deacons and men of God of all stripes. You tie bows in the hair of tomorrow’s great leaders among God’s daughters; teachers, doers of good deeds—the next generation of Christian mothers! May God bless you all with continued faithfulness, strength to endure, and much joy as you witness the fruits of your tireless labors. A single day isn’t sufficient to honor you for all you do!

(Image source: http://www.crosswalk.com)