Let Not Many Be Teachers

By | July 5, 2021

There is a general need for pastors and teachers in our churches. Broadly speaking, more pastors will retire than those who might fill their pulpits in years to come. In our rush to fill those pulpits, we should pray that Christ would send out laborers for the harvest (Matthew 9:38), but we should also be careful not to take just anyone who volunteers. James gives us some wisdom for who to choose.

Lower the Number

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1).

James commanded his readers to keep the number of teachers lower than the number of brothers in general. “Not many” numbers the teachers, whatever that number may be, and many more should therefore not teach. Why winnow the number of teachers to just a few? James gives two reasons, explained below.

Higher the Bar

First, teachers “will be judged with greater strictness.” This idea of judgment for the teachers of the church is common in the NT. Peter promises an unfading crown of glory to those who shepherd (and teach) the church (1 Peter 5:4). Paul promises a reward to those who pastoral work survives because it is built on the foundation of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:14). The crown of a pastor is his church (Philippians 4:1), and his flock, present at Christ’s coming, will be cause for boasting, glory, and joy (1 Thessalonians 2:19–20). Having accounted for their souls in this life, his reward is to see them in the life to come (Hebrews 13:17).

The Test Is in the Tongue

Second, and more to the point in James, this judgment concerns what teachers say. After all, the perseverance of the saints depends in part upon the teaching of the Word of God (cf. 1 Timothy 4:15–16). James continues, “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body” (James 3:2).

There should not be many teachers because everyone struggles in what he says, including those who would be teachers. In other words, as James speaks to everyone about the tongue (cf. James 3:2, “we all…anyone”), he also provides the tongue as a test for who should or not be teachers (cf. James 3:1–8). We might ask ourselves some questions of how a potential (or existing) teacher uses his tongue:

  • Does he boast of great things and slander others (James 3:5, 9)?
  • Do his words spur disorder and sinful practices instead of peace (James 3:13–18)?
  • Does he quarrel and fight with others and speak evil of the brothers (James 4:1, 11)?

If the answers are affirmative, then such a one should not be a teacher. He is not wise and understanding among the brethren and has no right to teach (James 3:13).

Instead, teaching should be marked by “integrity, dignity, and sound speech” (Titus 2:7–8). It should be authoritative (Titus 2:15) while being kind, patient, and gentle (2 Timothy 2:24–25). In all that he says, the teacher should speak “the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ” and give “teaching that accords with godliness” (1 Timothy 6:3).

May Christ raise up teachers for His church, and may He tame their tongues to teach in a way that honors Him.

Bits of Wisdom from Houses of Mourning

By | June 28, 2021

“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:4).

This verse has often run through my mind this past couple of years. I have provoked many houses to mourning. Others call my fellow police chaplains and me “grim reapers” because we announce to families that a loved one has just died. Sometimes people react in shock, denial, or anger. Eventually they mourn as they accept their loss.

We sometimes inform family that the death has come about in the pursuit of unholy mirth. In their foolish rush for pleasure (usually drugs), the pursuers find death instead. All in a moment, what was a house of mirth for one becomes a house of mourning for others. The Lord has given me some bits of wisdom in these houses to see firsthand the horrific results of indulging alcohol, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. The first two drugs often lead to one of the next, and the constant combination of some or all of the above often leads to an early death.

And God is sovereign over this death. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). God has decreed all things, including our appointment with death. The untimely death of a loved one surprises the ones who love, but God knew this time would come. He appointed it. And then He judges the deceased.

These truths arrested my attention in full when I read the words of a decoration in one of the houses mentioned above: “Good morning. This is God. I will be handling all your problems today.” How God sometimes handles the problems of sin is terrible to consider. The lifeless sinners come to know a horrific reality: “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Their problems of sin on earth are over. But their problem of eternal judgment has only just begun.

And then another bit of wisdom comes to mind that I know for myself and try to offer in a prayer. A truncated version goes something like this: “Dear Lord, You know what death is because you sent your Son to die for our sins on the cross. And He knows what death is because He died for us. I pray that you would give comfort during this time of grief, knowing that you have conquered death through Christ and that He is coming again one day. Be with the family now in each of the steps ahead. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.”

It is one bit of wisdom to know that we die. It is quite another to know that Christ has died for our sins, that He has conquered death, and that we can conquer death through Him. May God give us grace to be the be the wiser for considering these deaths today.

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A Summer to Glory in Evil?

By | June 21, 2021

A recently released movie Cruella (PG-13) apparently shows the backstory of how Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians became so cruel. Loki (TV-14), a new series, puts a pansexual and gender fluid demigod (according to the comic books, at least) center‑stage to entertain the masses.

In the first instance, Cruella follows Disney’s cartoon feature 101 Dalmatians (1961). Both Cruella and her goons are comically obsessed with making coats out of Dalmatian fur. Save the puppies! (Sorry, I gave the plot away.) The antics of the villains are obviously ridiculous. Now, fifty years later, the prequel informs and entertains its viewers with Cruella’ past in order to see why she is so evil. And, according to our culture, the assumption is that it’s not sin within that makes one more the sinner. It’s one’s terrible circumstances that make for such a terrible person. Man is innately good, so if Cruella did not suffer, she could otherwise flourish in society. Whether or not the movie expressly articulates this worldview, I’ll never know, but this seems to be a recurring theme for entertainment. (Joker, anyone?)

As for Loki, once again, here is a cinematic production that stems from something typically offered to children (comic books). Some in our society will wait with bated breath to see if Disney advances its LGBT agenda through the shifty brother of Thor. Disney again asks its viewers to entertain themselves with a character who loves to sin, and maybe his sins will be more abominable than before.

I’m not trying to nitpick at two shows in particular or critique the entertainment industry as a whole. However, sometimes upholding the gospel means addressing a problem here and there (cf. Jude 3–4), and these shows are examples of larger, trending problems. That’s what concerns me most as a pastor and father. Here’s just a couple of items to consider.

First, our society’s common grace is increasingly eroding.  We’ve gone from 101 Dalmatians to Cruella and from Dennis the Menace to Loki. When our society could put its collective mind on better things (cf. Philippians 4:8), it chooses to increase its appetite for evil instead.

Second, both of these shows stem from something first offered to children, and in the pull to complete a narrative, the viewer may not realize values change while characters stay the same. Broadly put, whereas children used to enjoy the triumph of good over evil, now those same people will enjoy the triumph of evil over good. And if their children join them in viewing, the children will be worse off than them in time to come.

With these trends in mind, here’s just a couple of thoughts from Scripture:

  • Whoever the villains may be, wisdom is to avoid them because they seek to shed innocent blood (Proverbs 1:8–19). Don’t walk with them or tread their paths or enjoy their sin on a screen (cf. Proverbs 1:15). Defeating a villain is one thing. Glorying in a villain’s defeat of others is another.
  • If the blood they seek to shed is not so innocent, remember the words of the Lord: “Vengeance is mine” (Deuteronomy 32:25). We are not the final judges of the sins of other men, and neither should we revel in the vengeance of others, however painfully the avenger may have suffered.
  • Finally, though villains may not sit with you in your home, they can shape your heart through your ears and eyes (cf. Proverbs 4:20–27). If they are angry, wrathful people, make no friendship with them, even as patrons, lest you learn their ways and entangle yourself in a snare (Proverbs 22:24–25). Entertaining yourself with another’s lust for vengeance can tempt you to be like him.

Christ shows us a better way: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

 

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Only God Gives the Growth

By | June 16, 2021

Yesterday, as I watered my garden, I couldn’t help but notice the difference between two mounds of pumpkin plants. As you can see in my photo, the plants on the right are several times larger than those on the left. Now, I planted both from the same seed packet on the same day, using the same soil, watering them at the same time each day, and each receiving the same amount of sun. So, why would one set grow so much bigger so much more quickly?

I still don’t have an answer to that question, but this conundrum did remind me of a passage in Scripture.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV).

Paul was addressing the jealousy and strife in the Corinthian church as they divided themselves into groups who followed only one teacher. Paul emphasized that both he and Apollos were simply fellow workers together in God’s field, accomplishing God’s purposes. They were workers, but God was the one to give the growth.

As I watered I thought about this truth of the burden of growth being on God (and obviously the individual, but that is not my focus here). When Christians give the gospel to unbelievers or help other believers, when pastors shepherd their flocks, when teachers teach their listeners, there is only so much that the “seed planters and waterers” can do. The burden of the growth of another is not ours to bear.

Perhaps it would be easier if we could control the growth of our family members, friends, and church members. We like to be in control of the whole process. We could see the instant results of our planting and watering. Sometimes (often in ministry) it is frustrating to plant and water and see little or apparently no growth in some, while others grow under the same conditions.

This is where the truth that it is “only God who gives the growth” is so comforting. It not only removes the burden of growth off of our shoulders, but it helps everyone (planters, waterers, and plants) to rely on the ever-faithful God rather than the frail planters and waterers.

If we faithfully plant and faithfully water, we have done our job. Leave the growing to God and rest in his sovereignty and his greater care for the plants.

 

The Fate of Those Who Never Hear

By | June 14, 2021

What happens to people who never hear the gospel?

What an awful question—to consider those who never hear the gospel, die in their ignorance, and suffer for eternity. Their fate is eternal torment by fire. It should make every Christian shudder.

But is it fair for them to be judged in this way? To never hear the gospel and still be punished forever?

Remember that man is sinful and therefore justly condemned by God. God is not obligated to save anyone, and it is a wonder that He saves any at all. Sinfulness begins at conception (Psalm 51:5) and is common to all mankind (Romans 3:23; 5:12; Ephesians 2:3). Sin provokes God’s wrath and punishment, whether the sinner has heard the gospel or not. Those who die in their sins immediately go to torment by fire (cf. Matthew 25:41; Luke 16:23–24) and will reside in the lake of fire forever (Revelation 20:14–15). “Fair” would be for all mankind to be forever in hell with no hope of salvation. Thankfully, our God is merciful, forgives our sin in Christ, and grants the merits of His Son to those who believe.

Remember also that God’s standard for eternal punishment is not whether or not someone has heard the gospel. To be sure, there is a greater accountability and punishment for those who hear and reject the gospel (cf. Matthew 26:24; 2 Peter 2:20–22), but, for those who do not hear the gospel, God still judges them justly. They plainly see and recognize His power and divine nature in creation and yet suppress this truth and fail to give Him thanks and honor (Romans 1:18–21; cf. Psalm 19:1–6). Their consciences condemn their sins and thus provide grounds for God to judge them through Christ (Romans 2:12–16). God judges them for how they have responded to what He has revealed of Himself to them in creation and conscience, even if that revelation does not include what He reveals of Christ in His Word. They can only be saved by hearing about and believing in Christ alone (Acts 4:12; Romans 10:14–15), but they can also be judged on the basis of what He generally reveals of Himself to all.

So, what do we as Christians do about these terrible truths?

First, be thankful that you yourself have heard and believed the gospel when others have not. You can say with Paul, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Second, give the gospel to anyone who will listen. Wherever your feet may take you, take the good news with you, and preach the gospel so that some may believe. Otherwise, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14).

What an awful thing to consider the fate of those who never hear. But what a mercy it is that we have heard and believed. And may God show mercy to more through us as we share the gospel of Christ.

How to Lead a Bible Study, Part 2

By | June 13, 2021
This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series How to Lead a Bible Study

Previously, in part 1 of this series, I wrote about whether a Ladies’ Bible study (LBS) is essential for the local church as well as the values of having one, along with the dangers and cautions that we should be aware of.

This time, let’s assume that the leadership team of the church has agreed that a LBS would be beneficial to the women of the church and the church as a whole. . .

 

What should be true about the teacher of a LBS?

Teachers in general

1. They should be loving. 1 Corinthians 12 talks about the various gifts that God gives individuals in the church, including teaching. 1 Cor 13 goes on to say that someone who prophecies, speaks with tongues, etc. but does not have love is just a noisy gong or clanging symbol. A teacher who is not loving is just annoying and unhelpful.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13:4-8 ESV).

2. They should “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” (Eph 4:12-14 ESV, emphasis added).

If they are not building up the body, aiding in faith and knowledge, helping believers not to be swayed by false teaching, they are not a qualified teacher.

3. They should understand what they are teaching and not promote speculation and vain discussion.

“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Tim 1:3-7 ESV).

4. They need to give sound teaching, not simply telling people what they want to hear.

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:1-4 ESV).

5. They need to be skilled in the word of righteousness with their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to discern good and evil.

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:12-14 ESV).

6. They need to be self-controlled in their speech.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water” (James 3:1-12 ESV).

7. They are not devious, sensual, greedy, manipulative, and dishonest.

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words” (2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV).

8. They are not intentionally hypocritical.

“You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law” (Rom 2:21-23 ESV).

9. They need to be people in whom the Word of God dwells richly.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16 ESV).

10. One qualification for a pastor is that he is able to teach. Although every pastor should be a teacher, not every teacher is a pastor. But here are accompanying requirements for pastor/teachers:

“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:1-7 ESV).

11. A teacher teaches others to teach.

“And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:2-3 ESV).

12. A teacher should be kindnot quarrelsomepatient, and gentle.

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim 2:24-25 ESV).

13. A teacher should have good role models.

“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me” (2 Tim 3:10-11).

Female teachers

1. They are not to teach men.

2. Older women who teach younger women (which all older women are required to do) should be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to much wine.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (Titus 2:3-5).

3. While 1 Tim 3:11 speaks to qualifications for deacon’s wives and not necessarily teachers, it does provide some good qualifications for a woman who will be in a leadership/visible position.

“Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things” (1 Tim 3:11 ESV).

What should be true about the content of a LBS?

1. It should be Word-centered, truth-centered, for building up and equipping of the saints

2. It should be doctrinally sound; not devoted to myths, genealogies, speculations, or vain discussions (1 Tim 1:3-7; 6:2-5).

3. It should be Scripture-centered.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16 ESV).

4. It should not be that which simply suits the passions of the hearers.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim 4:3-4 ESV).

5. Older women are to at least informally teach what is good. They are to train young women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their husbands.

“They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5 ESV).

What materials should you use?

1. I believe that if you call it a Bible study, you should be studying the Bible. There is nothing more powerful and effective than the Word itself. There are various studies that help people study books of the Bible.

2. A book can be a helpful tool to study as a group, but it must be chosen with great care. The emphasis of the book should be very biblical, and extra time should be taken to look at what Scripture says, holding the author’s words up to the light of Scripture. (e.g., I led a study through Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It had some great truths, but the content contained a whole lot of stories. I had to take time to go through many of the Scripture references and lead discussion about those.)

{Next time, I will address the audience in a LBS as well as practical issues to consider.} 

Work, Rest, Repeat

By | June 7, 2021

This past Monday, I stayed home and had a real holiday. We grilled burgers, enjoyed God’s creation, and spent time with my parents. The day was relaxed, tasks were undemanding, and deadlines were done and gone. I didn’t brutalize my body with one of the annual holiday routines at my gym, and I slept in the next morning.

The past few months, however, were filled with reading, visits to a library, searching for sources, academic writing, outdoor church workdays, a graduation, and hosting a pastor’s conference. Somewhere in it all God graciously gave me time to spend with my family week by week. Each task was a joy because it was for Christ and His Great Commission in some way.

After my last run to a library near Chicago, I parked my car and pulled up Ecclesiastes 12:12 on my phone: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” That verse has been on my mind a bit these past few months. Especially when that weariness was compounded by a 2-week bout with Covid-pneumonia. What an energy drainer. Thankfully, God’s grace and strength helped me to recover and get through these past months. Hopefully, I’ll be able to better fear God and keep His commandments as a result (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).

My experience is similar to anyone who ministers. You go through a busy season of study and service, soldier through it, drag yourself over the finish line, and collapse on your back at the end. The key is to stay down long enough to recover your oxygen. Work hard, rest, then go back at it.

The disciples had a time like this in Mark 6:31: “Many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” So, Jesus commanded them, “Come away by yourself to a desolate place and rest awhile” (Mark 6:31). They needed the rest—they were soon serving again (Mark 6:32–34).

When it comes to ministry, be diligent, work hard, and realize there are times when you’ll need to lose sleep (cf. Mark 14:32–42; 2 Corinthians 11:27). But realize also that the body can only take so much, and it may need an extra dose of rest after an exceptionally busy time. Like the disciples, sometimes we need to get away, rest awhile, and then get back at it again.

On a personal note, I’ve enjoyed a busy season of study and am grateful to have had some time to recover from the weariness that it brought. And for all the hours it stole from my time to write this and that on this site, I hope to be an encouragement with more posts in the days ahead.

 

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How to Lead a Bible Study, Part 1

By | May 31, 2021
This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series How to Lead a Bible Study

{This post was originally found on my previous blog, keeponswimmingblog.wordpress.com.}

I recently had the privilege to speak to a group of seminary wives about how to lead a Bible study. In mentioning this to a couple of people, they were interested to see my notes, so I thought I’d share them here in smaller chunks (than my 11-page notes I spoke from 🙂). I really enjoyed thinking through the topic in detail, and I wanted to come at it in as biblical a manner as I could. I am not an amazing teacher who has all the answers, but I have learned quite a bit in the ten or so years I have been teaching, writing Bible studies, and leading discussions. Perhaps something here will be helpful.

The first topic I addressed was whether it is essential to have a Ladies Bible Study (LBS). 

1. There is no mention in Scripture of women teaching in a formal setting.

There is actually a command in Scripture that women should not teach. In the setting of the church, Paul tells Timothy, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Tim 2:11-12[1]).

2. There is mention of women teaching Scripture in informal settings.

There is a narrative telling of a woman, Priscilla, and her husband privately taking aside another man to explain “to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).

There is a command that all older women are to be an example to and teach the younger women in practical matters of marriage, child-rearing, and godly living.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5).

3. From Scripture, I would conclude that a LBS is not an essential part of the local church.

Despite my conclusion in number 3, I then went on to discuss the value of a LBS.

1. It values a woman’s personal growth and understanding of the Bible and biblical values.

Women are made in the image of God and have both the capability (for the most part) and responsibility to study.

“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.’” (Matt 22:37-38, emphasis added).

Many women are hungry to study God’s Word, and this can be a means of doing so.

2. It allows for freer, more honest discussion than many women would feel comfortable doing in a mixed group.

I took an informal survey on Facebook and this was important to many who commented. It can be really intimidating for women to interact in a mixed group, so a ladies-only group can really be a help in this regard.

3. It can more bluntly deal with women-specific issues.

The last thing I will mention this time is the third point of my talk with the ladies, the cautions/dangers of a LBS.

1. Having an unqualified teacher. If you don’t have a qualified teacher, you shouldn’t have a LBS. (If the church leadership and ladies still really want a study, the pastor or other qualified male teacher could lead a ladies study, and perhaps they could train a qualified woman to teach.)

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1).

Bad reasons (as the sole qualifier) to choose someone to be a teacher:

    • She is married to a pastor (a pastor’s wife can be a teacher, but her marriage to her husband does not qualify her to be one).
    • She is an extroverted, likable, talkative person.
    • She is highly opinionated and/or smart.

2. Having a study that is not under the oversight of pastoral leadership.

“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women,burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:1-7, emphasis added).

“For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:10-11, emphasis added).

A woman can be easily led astray even by a desire to learn and study, but if she is not truly coming to a knowledge of the truth she can be a gateway to false teaching for her family and her church, leading to false teaching being promoted and division.

One of the most dangerous places for a woman can be a typical Christian bookstore. Publishers recognize that there are women who have a desire to be “always learning,” yet they do not always (often!) give knowledge of the truth.

A LBS teacher must be held accountable to the pastoral leadership, and the content of the material must be under pastoral guidance.

3. Having studies that highlight one aspect of a woman’s role to the neglect of another.

Not every woman is a mom or a wife. Single/widowed/childless women may feel out of place in such a study. These studies are definitely helpful and can be a huge blessing, but content needs to be “advertised” so ladies know what to expect.

Studies that emphasize the “pink” passages in Scripture (e.g., Ruth, Esther, Titus 2, etc.) to the neglect of others give a lopsided understanding of Scripture.

[1] All Scripture references from the ESV.

Next time, I will address what should be true about the teacher and the content of a ladies’ Bible study.

Joshua Bible Study: Week 3 {Conclusion & Complete 3-week Study}

By | March 19, 2021
This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Joshua Bible Study

Here is the final week in the study of Joshua. Three weeks feels like a small amount of time to study an entire book of good size, but my goal is to help others understand the “big picture” of the book. You can always slow down (as I did) and take more time. Much of the book is taken up with descriptions of land boundaries, so I tried to bring out the significance of the record without being bogged down in the (hazy to modern readers) details of the land. If you’d like to study more on that, many commentaries give great detail about the land and the borders. For what it’s worth, I found that looking at a map of Israel’s allotments was the most helpful to me in visualizing where each tribe landed.

I hope this study is a blessing. I was so encouraged to see once again what God had done. I was especially struck by God’s faithfulness to his promises, thus the title I gave my study: Joshua: God’s Unfailing Promises. Initially, I was going to call it something like “Choose Whom You Will Serve” or “Strong & Courageous.” But, the more and more I read and studied, I came to the realization that the book wasn’t about Joshua or Israel or me. It certainly focused on Joshua and Israel and their responses to God, and it clearly exampled a courage to obey the Lord. But the big idea in my head during and after reading was centered on God. He had made promises. He had overwhelmingly done every word of his promise. And he promised to continue to do so. I hope this study will encourage you to trust in the promises of God who was so faithful to his promises to Israel.

Here is this week’s study: Joshua_Week 3

And here is the complete 3-week study: Joshua_God’s Unfailing Promises_Complete 3 Week Study

(I’m always happy to hear feedback or be made aware of typos or unclear questions. Sometimes I reread my own questions not sure of what I meant myself. 🙂 )

Joshua & James: God’s Promises to Israel, God’s Promises to Me

By | March 8, 2021

I’ve been studying the book of Joshua, and the main theme has been God’s faithfulness to his promises. Over and over God said (beginning all the way back in Genesis 12 to Abraham) that he would give the people of Israel land in Canaan. Over and over in Joshua, God promised to fight for Israel and to give them the land. Multiple examples are given in the book, showing exactly how God did fight for Israel and drive out the Canaanites. And then we have all the lists of the land allotments for the tribes—cities upon cities that were now Israel’s.

As I read and thought about God’s faithfulness to his promises, my mind drifted to James 1. My husband has been preaching through James on Sunday mornings, and I realized that there are many promises there too. There are specific promises of God’s giving too. God gives wisdom to those who ask for it. He gives wisdom so that we can understand that the trials we encounter are to be viewed with joy because they work steadfastness and spiritual growth and maturity. That takes faith in God and wisdom from him to view trials that way (verses 2-8).

God also promises to give eternal life to those who persevere under trial. This requires understanding the nature of God correctly. He is not the one who tempts us to sin under trials. Rather, he is the one who is (as my husband pointed out yesterday) “always, only good.” He gives only good things, and he will always give only good things because he never changes (verses 12-17).

We can be assured that all that he gives is good (even when we need a faith-based wisdom to view these trials as good), because he has given us the best “good thing”: our salvation (verse 18).

I think we can have more faith to ask God for wisdom (thus preventing us from being unstable doubters; verses 6-7) when we know more about the God who is faithful to give what he has promised. I can know God is working trials for my steadfastness because my faith is increased in the God whom I’ve seen be faithful to his promises to Israel.

“You know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed” (Joshua 23:14).