The Mailbag: Christian Women Working, Using Birth Control, and Limiting Family Size

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I have a question [as] to what your convictions are about a woman working at all in the first place, in reference to your answer to the question “Is it ok for a woman to make more than her husband?

What also is your position on birth control or having a planned family size? You are very openly pro life, and amen to that, but it seems you also are supportive of a woman working outside of her home, and with that I can only generalize and forgive me if I am wrong, that you also support a woman limiting her family size because a mother of many children, which is usually the natural order of things when no contraceptives are used, would very difficultly work and also be able to look well to the ways of her household. Can you clear your position up for us wondering? Thank you Michelle! God bless you!

Thank you so much for your questions and kind remarks. These are important issues that women and their husbands need to prayerfully consider in order to arrive at a biblical conclusion for their family.

One thing it’s imperative to remember is that situations differ vastly from family to family. We can easily slip into a pattern of thinking that “every family is just like mine so every family ought to make the same decisions we’ve made,” and even to consider our family’s decisions as the biblical standard for every family. That’s not the case, and that’s not a biblical way of regarding others. It’s important to broaden our view to realize there are scads of family difficulties, logistics, and situations that we’ve never had to face before and that two families can make different decisions on these issues – due to the unique circumstances God has placed them in – and still both be in obedience to God.

The reason it’s possible for two families to make different decisions on these issues is because the Bible doesn’t give any clear cut commands that women should never “work at all in the first place,” or that family size should never be limited, or that no form of birth control should ever be used. We may have strong convictions about these things, but God does not specifically prohibit them in His Word, and that’s what we have to go by, not only when making decisions about our own families, but also when considering the decisions other families have made.

I took a closer look at what God’s Word says (and doesn’t say) about women working in my Mailbag article Stay at Home Dads? I would encourage you to read that article and look up the Scriptures I referenced, but, long story short, the Bible does not make an across the board prohibition that no woman may ever work to earn income. In fact, we see several examples of women in Scripture working, and God does not condemn these women for doing so. In some circumstances, it is perfectly biblical for women to work.

I think the confusion you may be experiencing stems from the fact that you’re assuming several “facts not in evidence” when it comes to women working outside the home. Your questions seem to be predicated on the idea that “working woman” necessarily means a married woman who has small children and who doesn’t want children to get in the way of her career. That may be the case for some women who work but it’s not the case for every woman. Not every woman is married. God has not blessed every woman with children. Some women have children who are grown and on their own. Some women are single mothers and have no choice but to work. Some women have disabled husbands who can’t work. Some women can work part time from home (or outside the home) and their jobs don’t interfere with raising their children and managing their households. Occasionally, when a couple marries, the wife is already well established in a lucrative career, while the husband hasn’t had the same educational/career opportunities, and regardless of how hard he works, and considering all other circumstances, the wife and husband agree that it just makes more financial sense for a particular season of their family’s life for her to work and for the husband to stay home with the kids. We cannot make a blanket statement that godly women in these circumstances, working outside the home (or from home), are necessarily violating Scripture. As I said, we need to be aware of the vast array of circumstances taking place in various families, and not judge those families by our own.

Your next question was about birth control and limiting family size. Again, we must look to Scripture to see what it says.

Since the Bible was written in a time before birth control pills and surgical sterilization were invented, naturally it does not address those specific types of birth control, or, really, any type of birth control. People have tried to make the case that a couple of passages address the issue of what we might call “natural family planning”:

The story of Onan describes Onan engaging in coitus interruptus (withdrawal) and God subsequently putting Him to death. This passage is sometimes offered as evidence that God is against even “natural” birth control. However, all you have to do is read the passage in context, and it’s clear that it wasn’t that particular sexual act itself that cost Onan his life, but his selfishness in refusing to obey what would later become the law of levirate marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:5 permits husbands and wives to engage in mutually agreed upon periods of abstinence which could be stretched like Silly Putty into a biblical endorsement of the rhythm method (natural family planning), but again, the context of the verse makes it clear that the abstinence mentioned in this verse is not for the purposes of birth control, it’s for the purposes of concentrated prayer, sort of a “fasting from sex” idea.

So birth control, even natural forms of it, is not really addressed in Scripture. It’s neither prohibited nor endorsed. And as a consequence, limiting the size of one’s family isn’t addressed either because that wasn’t normally, biologically-speaking, a realistic option.

The Bible does, however, speak to the issue of abortion. Abortion is the murder of an innocent human being, so all the biblical passages prohibiting murder also prohibit abortion. This includes any form of birth control that kills an already conceived baby.

Another biblical principle I think it’s important to take into consideration is that the Bible seems to assume that procreation is one of the main goals of both sex and marriage. While God created sex to be pleasurable, gratifying our desire for physical ecstasy is dessert, not the main course of sex, as our libidinous 21st century sexual ethic would have us believe. God created marriage as the boundary lines for sexual activity, and the foundation for creating families. The Bible knows nothing of a man and woman getting married and proactively deciding for fleshly or selfish reasons (career, travel, freedom, spending habits, etc.) not to have children. The Bible takes for granted that married couples who are physically able will form families by having children. That is His plan for propagating human life.

The Bible also views children as a blessing to families and views motherhood as an honor, a vocation worthy of respect and value. I’m very disturbed at the increasing attitude in our society, and even among some Christians, that children are an annoying inconvenience and a hindrance to women pursuing their own personal goals. I remember seeing a billboard ad for condoms a few years ago that featured a picture of a screaming toddler emblazoned with the caption, “You should have used X Brand condoms.” Recently I saw a TV commercial for an IUD that said something along the lines of, “It’s easier to make an appointment with your doctor to get this IUD than to deal with a thee year old.”

And just last night, I saw part of a sitcom in which a stay at home mom comes home from a night out with friends (all career women) and complains to her husband that ever since the kids were born she’s been stuck at home, that her friends are doing exciting things and all she’s doing is raising kids, that she needs to get out of the house and do something. So she decides to get a job. As if being a mother is an unexciting burden and she’s not really doing anything worthwhile.

Children are a precious gift of God and deserve to be treated with love and dignity, to feel like they’re wanted and valued by the person they love most in the world – Mom.

So taking all of these things into consideration, where does that leave us when it comes to making godly decisions about these three issues of women working, birth control, and limiting the size of one’s family?

Here are some biblical conclusions we can draw:

•Christians should not have abortions or use any type of abortifacient birth control. Barrier methods, true contraceptives (birth control that prevents conception), surgical sterilization (tubal ligation/vasectomy), and natural family planning are not sinful in and of themselves, but we need to prayerfully consider whether or not we have sinful or selfish reasons for wanting to use them.

•As with any decision, Christians should examine their motives for wanting to use birth control, limit their family size, and for wanting Mom to work outside the home. Are these motives sinful, fleshly, selfish, based on a lack of trust in God? If so, that’s the root issue that needs to be dealt with, because Christians should have biblical and godly motives for their decisions, not sinful ones. Godly decisions spring from godly motives.

•Generally speaking, in families with children at home, God’s pattern is for Mom to stay home, manage the household and raise the children, and for Dad to support the family financially. For many couples today, that will necessitate limiting the size of their family at least to a degree. The Duggars might be able to support 20 children on Jim Bob’s salary alone, but that is not the case for most families. Most couples will, at some point, have to make a decision as to whether or not they are physically and financially able to care for additional children, or if having additional children will force Mom to get a job, leaving a day care or someone else to raise the children.

•Because God’s general pattern for families is for Mom to stay home and Dad to work, husbands and wives should try to follow this pattern if at all possible. Explore all possibilities of reducing expenses, bringing in extra income, and keeping Mom at home:

  • Cut your expenses- Move to a cheaper area or into cheaper, possibly smaller, housing. Get a cheaper vehicle. Cut extraneous expenses like cable, going out to eat, recreational shopping, buying name brands, mani-pedis, gym memberships, organizations that require dues, lawn and housekeeping services, etc.
  • Think outside the box when it comes to employment. Bringing in income doesn’t have to mean working outside the home 9 to 5 as someone else’s employee. What about working online or starting your own business? Creating/crafting things and selling them online? Taking in laundry, ironing, or sewing? Babysitting? Homeschooling other people’s children? Working a late night or early morning shift while the kids are sleeping?
  • I highly recommend the late Larry Burkett’s book Women Leaving the Workplace: How to Make the Transition from Work to Home. It came out in 1995, before the internet was really a thing, so it doesn’t have much information on working online, websites you can go to, etc., but most of the practical advice he gives is timeless, and it’s easy to think of online alternatives to some of the “analog” things he mentions.

•Christian wives need to remember to obey Scripture’s instruction to submit to their husbands. If your husband does not want you to work outside the home or has made another decision (that does not violate clear Scripture) about one of these three issues, you are to lovingly and graciously submit to that decision. Remember, there isn’t an explicit biblical command (outside of the prohibition of abortifacients) one way or the other about any of these three issues, but there is an explicit command that you’re to submit to your husband.

•Pray. Making wise and godly decisions about things that aren’t prohibited or endorsed by Scripture can be tough, but this is one of the ways God grows us in dependence on Him. Ask Him for guidance and wisdom. He delights to answer such prayers.

•Get counsel. Set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling or contact a biblical counselor. It can be very helpful to get objective biblical advice when you’re working through these issues.

In some seasons of life and family circumstances it can be perfectly biblical for a woman to work, as long as her home and family remain her first priority and do not suffer because of her working. Abortifacients should never be used by Christians, and Christians should carefully and prayerfully consider whether or not they have godly motives for wanting to limit their family size or use non-abortifacient types of birth control. Christian couples need to make certain they aren’t violating any explicit commands of Scripture, seek to align themselves with biblical principles, and prayerfully make the wisest and most godly decisions for their families that they can about each of these issues.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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Hurricane Barry

 

Hi, friends. I wanted to send out a brief heads up and a prayer request. As you might have heard on the news, Hurricane Barry is impacting south Louisiana. As of Saturday morning (7/13), when I’m writing this, the models (see above) have the track skirting to the west of Baton Rouge, where I live, but they are still predicting 10-15 inches of rain.

Saturday 10:00 a.m.:

Everybody in my area would greatly appreciate your prayers. The main concern is flooding, since the Mississippi River has been at flood stage for so long. Additionally, we had a major flood in 2016 – to which the Amite River (see pic above) was a major contributor – and a few people in this area still aren’t back in their homes from that. (The Amite is just a couple of miles from me. The Mississippi is 15ish miles from me.)


Sunday 11:30 a.m. Update: Barry has finally arrived and brought some rain with him, but, to be honest, we’ve had regular thunderstorms that have been worse. The only way this storm seems different is the occasional minor gust of wind. We did have 3 or 4 tornado warnings about 90 minutes ago (after, of course, I sent my 19 year old to the store for a gallon of milk for breakfast! Mom of the year, here.) I don’t know if any actually materialized or touched down, but we didn’t see any if they did. A few twigs and sticks have fallen out of our trees.

If you caught the Fox News report on Barry from Baton Rouge this morning, why weren’t you at church? :0) Anyway the reporter was standing on the (Mississippi) river side of the levee and you could see that the water level was up past the tree line. That’s not because of the hurricane. That’s because the river has been at flood stage for a while. It has looked like that for weeks. That’s good news because that’s the most dramatic shot they could find to get on camera. So far we haven’t heard of any flooding in my immediate area, and they have re-forecast the crest of the Amite River at Denham Springs (see pic above) to 24 feet which is below flood stage.

At my house, we still have power and internet. Our satellite has gone out, but if you have satellite TV, you know that it goes out any time it rains anyway. Hopefully, Barry is on his way out like an unwelcome house guest. :0)


The heads up part is that the winds and flooding may cause us to lose power, so if you don’t see me blogging as usual this week, it’s not that I suddenly became a millionaire and ran off to Hawaii. :0) I’ll be back as soon as power is restored and things are settled down.

This week’s Mailbag article is already pre-scheduled and coming your way tomorrow.

Blessings to you and thanks for your prayers.

The 11th Commandment: 6 Principles for Boldly and Biblically Breaking It

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Every organization has them. Those unwritten rules that everybody seems to know. That newcomers learn through whispered admonitions or perhaps by inadvertently breaking them. The Southern Baptist Convention – and probably a lot of other denominations and parachurch ministries – has them too, and one that more and more people are learning about has, tongue in cheek, been dubbed “The 11th Commandment”:

Thou shalt not publicly criticize
other Southern Baptist leaders.

It seems to apply mostly to the upper echelons of SBC leadership: entity heads, celebrity pastors and authors, seminary leaders, the SBC president, the head of LifeWay. Basically anybody with power, position, or name recognition.

And we’re not talking about slandering or lying about someone. Naturally, that would be sinful and worthy of reproof. We’re talking about anything negative or critical even if it’s biblically correct and necessary.

I don’t know anyone personally¹ who has told me he’s/she’s been in this situation, but I’ve heard several stories from reliable sources over the past few years of pastors, people who work for LifeWay, SBC seminary employees, etc., who would like to speak publicly, biblically, and truthfully about sinful situations or unbiblical decisions in the SBC, but are reluctant to do so for fear of losing their jobs or positions. (On a smaller scale, I have heard from plenty of women who have been spiritually abused and bullied into silence, or out of their own churches, by church leadership for daring to speak out against LifeWay-endorsed false teachers.)

Think about that for a minute. This is a purportedly Bible-believing Christian organization in which doctrinally sound Christians are afraid to publicly stand for biblical truth for fear of retaliation from other Christians. Hush up. Cover up. Don’t shine the light of Scripture into the dark corners of the SBC.

This is an organization which, not so many years ago, battled to preserve the concepts of the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible. A Bible which says:

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is
good and right and true)

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Ephesians 5:8b-9,11

If we truly believe these words are breathed out by God (inspiration), completely trustworthy (infallible), and without error (inerrant), how can there be a culture of back room intimidation in the SBC?

Why isn’t the Scripture we say we believe being obeyed?

Sin. People are sinning and it’s negatively impacting fellow Believers. Just like when I sin it negatively impacts fellow Believers. Just like when you sin it negatively impacts fellow Believers.

Anyone¹ who is helping to create a culture of intimidation against fellow Believers for speaking out in accordance with Scripture is in sin and needs to repent and be forgiven by the grace and mercy of Christ.

But, often, when we’re sinned against, even by brothers and sisters in Christ, the person sinning against us doesn’t repent right away (or sometimes, ever). She continues in her sin against us. Although we might be able to talk to the person and encourage her with Scripture to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, we can’t change her heart. Only the Holy Spirit can convict someone of sin and give her the gift of repentance.

So, as leaders continue to attempt to enforce the “11th Commandment,” the only remaining decision to be made by those feeling pressured into silence is, “How do I respond to this? Do I speak out and risk my job, my reputation, my church, and a peaceful life for my family, or do I remain silent?”. I would encourage these folks to prayerfully consider the following biblical principles about this issue.

1.
Be Wise

As Ecclesiastes tells us,

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

Don’t just let your default response be to keep your head down and your mouth shut regardless of the issue that comes your way. There are times when it is biblically valid to remain silent, but there are also times when we are required by Scripture to speak up, regardless of the personal cost. You must ask God for wisdom to discern how to respond biblically to each situation, and then you must act accordingly, trusting God with the outcome.


2.
Know the Issues

You’ve got to know your Bible and know where Scripture lands on various issues. That goes hand in hand with making a wise decision about whether to speak out or remain silent. Using wine versus grape juice for the Lord’s Supper isn’t a make or break New Testament issue for the church, so you probably won’t want to risk your job over something at that level of adiaphora, but false teachers who are wreaking spiritual havoc on your denomination and the church when you have the power and the platform to biblically denounce it? Speaking out on that issue is all over the Old and New Testament, and you’ll want to be sure you follow Scripture appropriately in your particular situation.


3.

Count the Cost

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26-33

Have you counted the cost of being Jesus’ disciple? It’s high. Jesus says you “cannot be My disciple” if you aren’t willing to sacrifice relationships with your closest loved ones in favor of Christ and His Word. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice your physical life. If you aren’t willing to bear your own cross and follow after Him. If you don’t renounce all that you have. That includes your job, your reputation, comfort, ease, and security for your family, your church, your friends, book deals, speaking engagements, and sitting at the cool kids’ lunch table with evangelical celebrities. Jesus was despised and rejected by men. Are you, His servant, greater than your Master?


4.
Don’t Miss Your Calling

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

Go back and read the entire book of Esther. One of the main ideas of this little book is this:

Any position, power or platform you have is given to you by God,
and you are not merely to preserve and protect it, but to steward it for His purposes.

Just like God didn’t make Esther queen as an end in itself, God didn’t give you that job at LifeWay or that position at a seminary for you to protect it at any cost. He gave it to you as a means to an end – His glory, and the furthering of His Kingdom. Esther was willing to risk death, divorce, even banishment to speak up because she realized God had put her in the position of queen as a means of bringing about His purpose of delivering God’s people. Is it possible that’s why God put you in the position you’re in – to give you the voice and platform to speak out so others could be informed and inspired to stand up for biblical truth? Don’t let fear of the consequences rob you of the joy and honor of being used by God to bring about His purposes.


5.
In His Steps

Jesus. John the Baptist. Peter. Paul. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Samuel. Gideon. The Minor Prophets. All of these men (and more) spoke out against ungodliness among the people of God, and all of them paid dearly for it. Maybe some of them were afraid. Maybe some of them were concerned about their families and livelihoods. But all of them put God’s Kingdom and His people ahead of personal concerns and trusted that if they did what was right in God’s eyes, He would take care of them. And the same God who never failed them will never fail you.

Let the boldness and bravery of these men inspire you to be unwaveringly courageous. Let their unflagging resolve inspire you to forge ahead with no turning back. Let the depth of their faith inspire you to take God at His Word and believe Him for everything. We still need heroes of the faith today. Be the next one by following in the footsteps of the heroes of Scripture.


6.
Share in Suffering

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:3

Suffering for the name of Christ and the truth of His Word is such a major theme of the New Testament I couldn’t begin to list all the passages that address it. When you’re a servant of Christ, suffering the same reproach He suffered from the same kind of people for the same reasons isn’t an option. It goes with the territory.

Second Timothy 3:12-13 says:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

And not only is suffering the reproaches of Christ guaranteed, we need to grasp the fact that this kind of suffering is an honor for the Believer.

And when they had brought [Peter and the apostles], they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men…and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Acts 5:27-29, 40-41

Read the whole account in Acts 5:17-42. Men of God were threatened, imprisoned, and subsequently beaten, by their “denominational leadership” for boldly proclaiming the Word of God to the people of God in the house of God. And those men of God got back up, dusted themselves off, and rejoiced because God Himself had seen fit to bless them with this honor.

We’ve got to radically transform our perspective on suffering for the name and Word of Christ:

  • We need to internalize and embrace the prospect of suffering rather than fearfully kicking against it and avoiding it.
  • We’ve got to fully wrap our minds around the fact that we won’t just suffer at the hands of unbelievers outside the church, we’ll also be persecuted by unbelievers (and sometimes even Believers) inside the church.
  • And finally, we not only desperately need to see suffering the reproaches of Christ as an honor rather than an embarrassment, we need to support, encourage, and stand with fellow Believers who are being persecuted rather than being ashamed to be counted with them.

When you face an “11th Commandment” issue there are some hard questions you need to ask yourself: Am I embracing the prospect of suffering for Christ, or avoiding it? Am I grasping the fact that the attempt by other Christians to silence me on a biblical issue is persecution? Am I ashamed of God’s Word and ashamed of being counted with those who are standing for it? Am I choosing to stay silent because that is the biblically wise decision regarding an inconsequential matter or am I just being a coward? Am I fearing God or fearing earthly consequences? Those are questions only you can answer through prayer and by rightly dividing and applying God’s Word.


Sometimes it is biblically wise to remain silent, but in the times when Scripture requires us to boldly take a stand for Christ and for His Word, we dare not seek to avoid suffering by caving in to the pressure of the 11th Commandment.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. Ezekiel 33:6


¹I am not personally privy to specific examples of specific people intimidating others or being intimidated by someone, so this article is not aimed at any specific person/people. This article is about the principles surrounding the “11th Commandment”.

Throwback Thursday ~ Top 10 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor

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Originally published September 23, 2016

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Do you pray for your pastor regularly? I hope you do. Being a ministry wife myself, I’ve gotten to know oodles of pastors over the years. The old joke that a pastor only works an hour a week couldn’t be farther from the truth. Ministry is hard. In the midst of the joys it brings, it’s long hours, lots of stress, and dealing with sometimes stubborn (and sometimes downright mean) sheep. In fact, I’ve often said it’s ministry, not the Peace Corps, that’s “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” Here are ten ways you can pray for your pastor.

1. Pray that he will excel at his job.
Ask God to help your pastor “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9) This is the Bible’s main job description for pastors. Pray that yours will fulfill it well.

2. Pray that he will be a good Berean.
Pray that God will help your pastor prioritize vetting the theology of anyone he quotes in the sermon, whose reference materials he uses when studying, or whose materials the church is considering using.

3. Pray that God will protect his time.
Weddings, funerals, outreach events, meetings, even fixing the leaky toilet in the men’s room- they all take up a pastor’s most precious commodity: time. And time, particularly uninterrupted time, is what it takes to adequately study and prepare sermons and whatever Bible studies he might teach. Pray that God will provide your pastor with the time he needs (and good time management skills) to attend to study, sermon prep, and all his other pastoral duties.

4. Pray for rest.
There are some pastors out there who are working upwards of 60-80 hours a week, but even a 40 hour week of ministry can be exhausting. Pray that God will help your pastor to get the rest he needs and that he will sleep well.

5. Pray for his areas of pastoral weakness.
Some pastors are really good at preaching but are poor administrators. Some are great at marriage counseling but stink at hospital visits. Pray that God will strengthen your pastor in his areas of ministerial weakness, whatever those might be.

6. Pray for wisdom in difficult church circumstances.
The roof of the sanctuary was damaged in the storm and the church can’t afford to have it fixed. A couple everyone thought was married turns out to be living together and needs to be confronted about their sin. Even if it’s something you don’t know about, your pastor is probably dealing with some sort of difficult church situation. Pray that God will give him the wisdom to make the best and most godly decisions possible and carry them out in a biblical way.

7. Pray for his personal walk with the Lord.
Does your pastor have time to get alone with the Lord for his personal relationship with Christ? Maybe he’s struggling against a particular sin or striving to be more committed to prayer. Pray that God will grow your pastor in Christ as an individual.

8. Pray for his joy.
Hebrews 13:17 says: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” It does the church no good to have a pastor who groans at dealing with his sheep because they’re stiff-necked and contrary. Pray that God will make your pastor’s job a joy by praying for the spiritual health and submission of your church.

9. Pray for your pastor’s family relationships.
Before he’s your pastor, he’s her son, her husband, their brother, their father. Pray that God would help your pastor have the time he needs to spend with his family, and to be a godly husband, father, and loved one.

10. Pray about how you can help your pastor.
Pastors have a lot on their shoulders. Is there any way you could take something off your pastor’s plate and allow him to focus on the things only he can do? Could you fix that leaky toilet, teach that class, fill that volunteer slot, counsel that sister, vet that proposed small group study? Could you at least offer him a word of encouragement on a regular basis? Ask God to show you ways you can help out your pastor.

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Our pastors need our prayers.
What are some other ways we can pray for them?

1 & 2 Timothy: Lesson 12

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Read 2 Timothy 4

Questions to Consider

1. Recalling that 2 Timothy was written as a letter, no chapter and verse markings, notice how chapter three flows into chapter four. Read 3:15-4:2a. What is the focal point of these verses?

2. We’ve seen charges in previous chapters, and chapter 4 starts off with a charge. Break down the charge in verses 1-2,5 into three sections:

1. The seriousness and grave responsibility of the charge– Describe the gravity and weightiness of this charge to Timothy and all other pastors. How does this type of charge compare to others you’re familiar with, such as the swearing in of a witness in court or the President taking the oath of office?

2a. What are pastors being charged to do?– Think about some of the shenanigans you may have seen in the church- pastors preaching about movies, conducting interviews with Christian (or not) celebrities during the sermon time instead of preaching, pastors who preach “God told me” extra-biblical revelation, sermons that consist mainly of jokes and personal stories, etc. Considering the seriousness of the charge to “preach the Word” do pastors have the leeway – before God – to do such things?

2b,5. In what manner are pastors to carry out this charge?- What does it mean to “be ready in season and out of season”? What do the words reprove, rebuke, and exhort mean? What would that look like in your church, from your pastor? Why would a pastor need to exercise “complete patience”? If a pastor shies away from preaching about certain biblical issues, is he correctly carrying out the charge to give “complete teaching”? What do each of the points in verse 5 mean, and how should pastors carry them out as they preach the Word?

3. Keeping this serious charge to pastors in mind, examine 3-4 light of 1-2,5. Notice that verse 3 starts with a pivot point, “for,” which, in this context, means “because.” Why does the Holy Spirit, via Paul, hammer so hard on preaching the Word in 1-2? Because 3-4. Explain what verses 3-4 mean.

If “people will not endure sound teaching” (3) and will “turn away from listening to the truth” (4), what is the point of pastors preaching the Word (2)? If people are just going to turn away anyway, why bother? Think about this in light of these passages. Who is the church for? How does preaching the Word benefit the sheep (Believers) a) by nourishing them with Scripture and b) by drawing a line of distinction between true Believers and false converts who only want their itching ears scratched? How does this line of distinction help us with evangelism? How does it help the spiritual health of the church?

4. Examine verses 6-8. Notice that verse 6 starts with “for” (because). Why (6-8) is Paul passing down all these instructions in 1-2 Timothy to Timothy especially, and to all pastors?

5. Put yourself in Paul’s shoes as you read 6-22. Recall where Paul is as he’s writing this (go back to the introduction in lesson 8 {link above} if necessary), and what is transpiring (16). Notice the theme of being deserted by others. How many times does Paul mention others deserting him? Does he seem to want revenge for this? Who is Paul’s comfort when deserted by others? (17-18) Do you get the impression Paul feels sorry for himself? Does he focus on His circumstances or does he choose to focus on spiritual truths? Make a list of the spiritual truths he focuses on in these verses. How could you apply and focus on these comforting spiritual truths the next time you’re in a difficult or lonely situation?

Compare the “faithful to the finish” life of Paul to other Bible characters (Solomon, Uzziah, etc.) you’re familiar with who started the race well, but turned from God later in life. Ask God to help you run the race well and finish faithful.


Homework

Do you think the “time has come” (3)? What is one way you have personally seen verses 3-4 fleshed out in the church today? How would this situation have been helped or changed if the pastor had taken seriously his charge in verses 1-2? Take some time to pray for those involved in that situation.

Have you ever seen a “verse 3-4 situation” in which the pastor did take seriously his charge to preach the Word, reprove, rebuke, etc., and the story had a happy ending with repentance and restoration to the truth of the gospel? Consider dropping a note to the pastor thanking him for obeying God in that situation.


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What’s Our Next Bible Study?

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Ladies, as our study of 1 & 2 Timothy draws to a close over the next couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about our next Bible study. I’ve narrowed it down to two options, but I wanted to get your input as to which one you’re up for. Or down with. Or whatever. The two options are:

A topical study on prayer
My thought here is to study about 5 to 10 prayers from various Bible characters, Old and New Testament, to learn more about prayer and how to strengthen our prayer lives. For example, the Lord’s Prayer, Solomon’s prayer for wisdom, etc.

An expositional study of a New Testament book
Similar to the 1 & 2 Timothy study, my study on Mark, and so on. I’m leaning toward Galatians or Philippians, but I’m not 100% settled on a particular book yet.

We will most likely do both of these studies, it’s just a question of which one to do next.

Here’s where y’all come in! Leave a comment below and let me know two things:

1. Which study would you like to do next?

2.a. If you prefer the prayer study, what are some prayers from the Old or New Testament that you’d like to see included?

2.b. If you prefer the expositional book study, which book of the New Testament would you like to study? (We have already done Mark, Colossians, 1&2 Timothy, 1, 2 & 3 John, Philemon, and Jude)

I’ll take everybody’s input into consideration, pray about it, and let you know soon what our next study will be!

An Open Letter to Beth Moore – Timeline of Events

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Nearly three weeks ago, six Christian women (and nearly 500 subsequent signers) addressed An Open Letter to Beth Moore, asking five questions about her views on homosexuality:

1. Do you believe homosexuality is inherently sinful?

2. Do you believe that the practice of the homosexual lifestyle is compatible with holy Christian living?

3. Do you believe a person who dies as a practicing homosexual but professes to be a Christian will inherit eternal life?

4. Do you believe same sex attraction is, in and of itself, an inherently sinful, unnatural, and disordered desire that must be mortified?

5. Why have you been so silent on this subject in light of your desire to “teach the word of God?”

Since the discussion of the events and commentary surrounding the open letter have mostly taken place on Twitter, and many who have an interest in these events and comments are not Twitter users, this article is intended to be a timeline outlining the sequence of events, beginning with the publication of the open letter.

Several Christian news outlets, bloggers, and podcasters have reported on the story since the letter was released. For the sake of brevity, most of these have not been included, but if you’re interested, you should be able to find the majority of them by Googling “Open Letter to Beth Moore”. Notably absent in reporting on the open letter issue has been Baptist Press (the news outlet of the Southern Baptist Convention), even though they have been made aware of the situation and routinely publish articles on issues of far less significance.

Additionally, Southern Baptist Convention President, J.D. GreearLifeWay (which carries Beth’s materials and promotes her and her events, and has removed previous authors for affirming homosexuality), newly installed President/CEO of LifeWay, Ben Mandrell, the ERLC, and ERLC President, Russell Moore have all been made aware of the situation, and none of them have responded. (For those who aren’t aware of the significance of this, read #3 here.)

Here is the timeline of events surrounding the Open Letter to Beth Moore:

Prior to Tuesday, June 18-
Original signers
of the Open Letter to Beth Moore – Susan Heck, DebbieLynn Kespert, Michelle Lesley, Martha Peace, Elizabeth Prata, and Amy Spreeman – are asked to read the letter, offer input, sign, and publicize the letter.

 

Tuesday, June 18-
DebbieLynne Kespert and Elizabeth Prata publish the letter on their respective blogs.

 

Wednesday, June 19-
5:00 a.m.: Michelle Lesley publishes the letter on her blog with the option for other women who agree with the letter to add their signatures (continually updated).

11:01 a.m.: Beth posts this cryptically vague Facebook post. Due to the timing of the post, people begin to speculate on whether or not it is a response to the open letter even though it does not mention the letter, the signers of the letter, or homosexuality, nor does it answer any of the questions posed in the letter.

 

Saturday, June 22-
Amy Spreeman publishes the letter on her blog.

Four days after the publication of the letter, Beth still has not answered the questions in the letter or otherwise made her position on homosexuality clear.

 

Sunday, June 23-
Beth posts this Tweet thread, which seems to be responding somewhat more directly to the letter, but still doesn’t mention the letter, the signers of the letter, or homosexuality, nor does it answer any of the questions posed in the letter. Pertinent excerpts:

To date, Beth still has not answered this question asked by Michelle Lesley. (More commentary on this tweet thread here, #10.)

 

Monday, June 24-
Questions about the Open Letter to Beth Moore is published (to be updated as needed).

 

Wednesday, June 26-
One week after the publication of the letter, Beth still has not answered the questions in the letter or made her position on homosexuality clear in any other way.

 

Friday, June 28-
Beth is tweeted a link to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, Article XV of which reads in part:

“In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.”

To date, Beth has not responded that she affirms the statement of faith of her own denomination (nor have Russell Moore nor LifeWay, also tagged in this tweet, responded).

 

Saturday, June 29-
LifeWay, the ERLC, J.D. Greear, Ben Mandrell, and Russell Moore are again asked for a response to the issue. Again, none have responded to date.

 

Monday, July 1-
Still not responding to the questions in the letter or making her position on homosexuality clear in any other way, Beth blocks original signer of the letter, Michelle Lesley, on Twitter.

Michelle Lesley comments on being blocked by Beth:

(For further explanation of this comment, see #3 here.)

Southern Baptist pastor, Dwight McKissic, who last year suggested that Beth Moore be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention as a way of righting (real and perceived) wrongs against women in the SBC, retweets Michelle Lesley’s comment and adds his response, unbiblically judging the questions in the letter as “inappropriate” and the motives of the signers of the letter as a “problem,” in the process:

(The “factual bases” for the for the questions were clearly stated in the open letter, namely, that Beth has not articulated an unambiguously biblical position on homosexuality in recent years, and that she maintains public, adulatory friendships with well-known homosexuality-affirming public figures, leading others to wonder if her current position on homosexuality is affirming. These are the reasons we deemed the questions “necessary.”)

Responding to Michelle Lesley‘s retweeted comment, “She doesn’t answer to me, but she does owe a clear public explanation of her views on homosexuality to the SBC and her fans,” Beth replies (actually on July 2) to Dwight:

Beth unbiblically judges the signers of the letter as “hunters, trappers” and not asking the questions in the letter in “good faith.”

Beth also declares that she owes the Southern Baptist Convention zero. She is the best known and most influential member of the SBC as well as its (LifeWay’s) best selling author. The Southern Baptist Convention, through the promotion of her conferences and materials has made her what she is both in fame and financially. Thousands of SBC churches use her materials. But, “I owe these folks 0.” And, apparently, she doesn’t feel she owes her millions of fans clear, biblical teaching on this issue either.

 

Tuesday, July 2-
(Tweet from Beth above, under July 1, is actually posted on July 2.)

Beth blocks original signer of the letter, Elizabeth Prata, on Twitter.

 

Beth also gives as her reason for blocking Michelle Lesley a complete misrepresentation of one of Michelle’s tweets:

(Michelle Lesley did not say Beth had “never even shared the ‘clear gospel’,” only that she (Michelle) had never seen/read said presentation. Beth has repeatedly stated she has been a Bible teacher for forty years. Michelle, having only viewed/read a fraction of that forty years of material, was giving Beth the benefit of the doubt that such a presentation does, in fact, exist, only that Michelle does not happen to have seen it. Notice Beth provides no links to where one might find an example of her clearly presenting the gospel.)

 

Wednesday, July 3-
8:03 a.m.: Beth unbiblically judges the hearts of the signers of the letter as having the wrong reasons, wanting “public attention,” and wanting to “barbecue” a fellow Christian. She also accuses the signers of the letter of not going through the “right channels” to contact her (even though, as explained in #5&6 here, asking a Bible teacher questions about the Bible is not a Matthew 18 issue of confronting someone in sin in the local church, and dozens of people have confirmed that they have tried, over the years, to contact her/her ministry through the “right channels” and have been ignored – here’s just one example):

(Original signer of the open letter, Elizabeth Prata, discusses Beth Moore’s “right channels” here.)

At this point, two weeks after the publication of the letter, Beth still has not answered the questions in the letter or otherwise made her position on homosexuality clear. In two weeks of being asked her position on homosexuality from numerous people, she has not once pointed to anything she has previously written on the subject.

1:22 p.m.: A Twitter user named Carrie alerts Michelle Lesley to the fact that Beth has indeed addressed the topic of homosexuality in chapter 13 of her book, Praying God’s Word. (Unfortunately, Carrie later decides to delete her tweet.) Please note that Beth is not the one who pointed this out even though she had two weeks in which to do so.

Another Twitter user in the same thread posts a screenshot of p. 279 of the 2009 hard copy edition of Praying God’s Word, where Beth clearly calls homosexuality “a deadly sexual assault of the evil one,” a “sin,” something God can “deliver” someone from, and something that people should seek “forgiveness, fullness, and complete restoration in Jesus Christ” from. She says that “transformation” from homosexuality “is possible…because God’s Word says so,” and that she personally knows “plenty of believers who have been set free from homosexuality.”

(Keep in mind that for two weeks Beth knew she had written this biblical statement on homosexuality in her book, and revisit Beth’s comments above (under “July 2”). Why would any Bible teacher of 40 years who has correctly and biblically written about the sin of homosexuality and who says her “doctrine has not changed,” feel “hunted” and “trapped” when asked her views on homosexuality? If her doctrine truly has not changed, why wouldn’t she, herself, not a random Twitter user, have simply pointed to what she had written in her book?)

Other Twitter users begin tweeting this picture to Beth, asking if she still believes what she wrote in this book. No response from Beth.

Twitter user, Logan, subsequently tweets to Michelle Lesley a screenshot of the 2009 Kindle version of chapter 13 of Praying God’s Word in which the section on homosexuality has been removed.

Other Twitter users begin tweeting this screenshot to Beth asking her to comment.

 

Thursday, July 4-
Beth responds as to why the section on homosexuality was removed from later editions of Praying God’s Word:

Beth says her clear and biblical statements about homosexuality being a sin that requires forgiveness and that God can deliver people from “exceed Scripture” “keeps people from God’s words” and that she “over spoke“.

Well-known theologian, author, and pastor, Dr. James White aptly sums up the situation with Beth Moore in a Facebook post. Notable excerpts:

Beth Moore has taken a pretty central role over recent months as the earthquake in cultural thinking has flowed through evangelicalism. She has shown herself more than willing to back the “woke” movement and is plainly promoting the development of “soft complementarianism” which is another term for “not quite yet fully cooked egalitarianism.” And it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you are woke and pushing the “soft complementarian” perspective, there is another clear and obvious car in that social-justice train. It’s the homosexuality car.

So a few weeks ago a group of women teachers wrote an open letter to Beth Moore asking her for specific answers to specific questions…In any case, the questions were fair and, of course, perfectly understandable. No Christian teacher of any standing should be hesitant to take a stand on these issues.

But Beth Moore has chosen to not only ignore the open letters, but to impugn the character and motivations of those questioning her (a very common tactic, but one being utilized with consistency by those wearing the “progressive” label today). This has led others to look closely at her writings and to discover that a book she wrote many years ago has now been edited in its Kindle edition so as to remove a discussion about homosexuality.

But let’s think about what Mrs. Moore is saying here. To speak of homosexuality as a deadly sin is to “exceed Scripture.” To speak of deliverance and restoration from homosexual sin is to “exceed Scripture.” To claim that there have been many who have been set free from homosexuality is to “exceed Scripture.”

While she may wish to claim this did not involve a “doctrinal shift,” if you teach X is sin, but then conclude that X is not sin, or that to say X is sin is to “exceed Scripture,” that is a doctrinal shift…

I predict that within five years we will get a Rachel Held Evans/Jen Hatmaker/hundreds of others style article explaining how after prayerful consideration and growing in love for God’s people and getting to know so many wonderful LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in the Lord, Beth Moore has come to understand that we dare not exceed Scripture and we must follow the Spirit’s lead to recognize the need for their full inclusion in the life and fellowship of the body, etc.

 

Friday, July 5-
Commenting to a supporter as to why the section on homosexuality was removed from Praying God’s Word, Beth again declares that her biblical statements on homosexualityovershot Scripture by a mile,” “made people feel demonized,” and “caused damage.”

 

Dr. James White adds further commentary on this tweet in another Facebook post.

 

Saturday, July 6-
Beth publishes a blog post further explaining why she removed the section on homosexuality from her book, Praying God’s Word: Why I removed some of my commentary from a chapter of Praying God’s Word.

 

Finally, after two and a half weeks of avoidance, reluctance, personal attacks and unbiblical judgments toward the signers of the letter, and knowingly declining to point to what she had previously and biblically written about homosexuality, Beth makes the clearest statement to date on her views on sexuality:

I hold firmly to a traditional Christian sexual ethic and continue to believe the Bible sets apart marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. But I also believe that Scripture clearly teaches that all sex outside of marriage is contrary to God‘s will.

She still does not plainly say, “Homosexuality is a sin that must be repented of,” (indeed, again, she does not use the word “homosexuality” or other synonymous terms in this statement) but it would be difficult for anyone to read this statement and believe there is “wiggle room” for Beth to publicly affirm homosexual activity (although she does not address same sex attraction, as the open letter asked her about in question #4, which does leave the door open for her to validate homosexual orientation, identification, lust, or anything short of sexual acts) . However, it is a good and biblical statement about sexuality.

It should be noted that Beth ends this article with yet another subtle swipe at the signers of the letter and all those who have called her to account over the past two and a half weeks (and this portion is worded with enough “wiggle room” for Beth to say anyone’s interpretation of it is not what she meant):

Here is what I no longer have the stomach for after the last several years: the hypocrisy burgeoning from hyper fundamentalist Christianity. I do not lack a Scriptural view of sin. I just believe in a longer list of serious sins than some.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Beth characterizes biblical Christians asking her simple questions about the Bible as “hypocrites” and “hyper-fundamentalist.” Beth does not make clear her definition of “hyper-fundamentalist,” so there is no way for those she is accusing of such to defend themselves. But labeling as “hypocrites” Christians who have simply asked her, a Bible teacher of forty years, whether or not she believes homosexuality is a sin, when her response has been to drag her feet for two and a half weeks until forced by evidence and circumstance to answer is the height of hypocrisy.

She further implies that she takes sin more seriously (“I just believe in a longer list of serious sins than some.”) than the signers of the letter and those calling her to account, which is, again, hypocritical since any Christian who takes sin seriously would not avoid answering a question about whether or not something is a sin for two and a half weeks. That is not taking sin seriously.

And, finally, she implies, with the citation of Galatians 5:19-21:

•that she believes all of the things in these verses are sins and that the signers of the letter do not,

•that the signers of the letter – by politely asking her whether or not she believes homosexuality to be a sin – have committed one or more of these sins (probably enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, if not others) and that she has not,

•and that the signers of the letter, since they are guilty of these sins “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” In other words, that we are not saved.

Dr. James White responds to Beth’s blog post with one of his own: Beth Moore Sort Of Explains…But Not Really, raising several additional important issues and questions.

Bible teacher and theologian, Justin Peters, concurs with Dr. White and adds his own concerns in his blog article: My Thoughts on Beth Moore’s Blog Post. (Actually posted on July 8.)

After publishing this blog post, Beth announces she will be taking a short break from Twitter, thereby disallowing anyone from using one of her “right channels” to ask her any questions about her blog post or other questions about homosexuality:

 

Monday, July 8-
(Justin Peters’s blog post – mentioned above under July 6 – actually published.)

 

The fruit of Beth’s blog post is already evident. Here are just a few of the replies to her tweet alerting her followers to the release of the blog post:

These homosexual and homosexual-affirming followers of Beth do not have a fully-orbed biblical view of and/or practice regarding homosexual sin, and Beth isn’t calling them to repent and believe the gospel.

 

Speaking for myself, I am grateful for Beth’s biblical statement on sexuality, and I pray she will be encouraged in the future to take as strong and passionate a stand against the pernicious sin of homosexuality as she has taken on sins like racism and sexual abuse. It has always and only been our desire to see her rightly and unashamedly proclaim the whole counsel of God to her followers. We pray she will grow to do so more and more.

There remain questions and important issues surrounding the sin of homosexuality that must be addressed. This article will be updated with future developments.

1 & 2 Timothy: Lesson 11

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Read 2 Timothy 3

Questions to Consider

1. Recalling that 2 Timothy was written as a letter, no chapter and verse markings, read how chapter two flows into chapter three (start around 2:22). What has Paul been discussing in chapter two and how does he transition into a new, yet related, line of thought in chapter three? Notice how 3:1 functions as a pivot point between the two trains of thought.

2. When are the “last days“? (1) What word does Paul use to describe the last days? (1)

3. Study 1-9, taking care to read 2-5 as one (long) complete sentence. Notice the set and subset of people Paul describes in this passage. What is the set described in 2-5 (notice the first two words of 2)? Are these verses generally speaking of Christians or non-Christians? Which words and phrases in these verses lead you to this conclusion? What is the subset (“For among them…”) of people described in 6-9? If Paul speaks of false teachers as being a subset of non-Christians, what does this imply about the spiritual condition of most false teachers?

4. How does verse 5(b) tell us to deal with the types of people described in 2-5? Does this include false teachers? Which words and phrases in verses 4b-6a lead us to this conclusion?

5. What do the phrases “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” and “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” mean? Are these phrases describing lost people in general, or false teachers, or both?

6. Carefully examine verses 6-7. Why do you think the Holy Spirit intentionally specifies women in verse 6? Think about the women you know who have been “captured” by false teachers and how verses 6-7 describe them.

7. Look closely at 6-9. Who were Jannes and Jambres? (8- use your cross references, click here for more help). Who do the words “these men” (8) and “they” (9) refer back to (6)? Why do you think the Holy Spirit brought Jannes and Jambres to Paul’s mind when he was writing about false teachers? What are the similarities between these two men and the false teachers Paul is describing?

8. Keeping in mind that this is a letter written to a pastor, and to pastors today, why is it important for pastors to be aware of these things, and what sorts of practical actions should they take in response to these instructions and warnings?

9. Notice how verse 10 serves as another pivot point to a new line of thought. Describe the compare and contrast element Paul uses here between 1-9 and 10-17. Who/what is being compared?

10. Imagine you’re Timothy reading this letter. Make a list of the things in 10-17 that you would find encouraging as a pastor.

11. What can we learn about persecution from verses 11-13? Does God always “rescue” Christians from persecution?

12. Read verse 15 in light of 1:5, and explain the impact godly mothers and grandmothers can have on their children and grandchildren when they train them in the Scriptures.

13. Study verses 16-17. How do these verses refute the unbiblical idea that the words Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry (“red letters”) somehow carry more weight than the rest of Scripture? (Ex: “Jesus never mentioned homosexuality, so it must have been OK with Him.”) How do these verses refute the unbiblical argument people sometimes make about 1 Timothy 2:12 that, “That’s not God giving that command, that’s just Paul’s personal, human opinion.”?

14. Peek ahead to the first few verses of chapter 4, and notice how chapter 3, especially verses 16-17, feed into the the thoughts in chapter 4.


Homework

Review verses 4b-9, and consider a) how the Holy Spirit describes false teachers and the spiritual damage they do to the church, and b) how the Holy Spirit instructs us to “avoid such people”. Think about how this applies to individual Believers and the church today – the music we use in worship service or listen to on Christian radio, the materials we use in Bible study and Sunday School classes and for our own personal Bible study time, the evangelical celebrities we follow and share on social media and the ones quoted by our pastors and shared by our church’s social media pages, the conferences we attend or that our church hosts, etc.

Make a list of practical ways you and/or your church can obey verse 5’s instruction to “avoid such people” and pray for God to give you and/or your church leaders wisdom in this area.


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Top 10 4th of July Twisted Scriptures

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(If you’re participating in the 1&2 Timothy study,
lesson 11 is coming your way tomorrow.)

Originally published July 7, 2017

Independence day is my favorite of the non-major holidays. Fireworks, picnics, barbecues, and what other holiday has such grand music that nearly the whole country can enjoy and sing together? It’s the one day of the year when we, as Americans, can set aside our political differences and bickering and celebrate our God-given freedom to have political differences and bickering.

It is good to thank God for the blessing of liberty. It is right to be patriotic and celebrate our nation’s founding. It is evangelistic to use Independence Day as a springboard for explaining to people how they can find real freedom in Christ.

And with that freedom – our freedom in Christ and our freedom as American citizens – comes great responsibility. Namely, the responsibility not to throw all of those things into the Cuisinart at once and turn them into an Americhristian smoothie with red, white, and blue sprinkles.

There is a vast difference between American political freedom and the spiritual freedom found only in Christ. But when we lift Bible verses out of their context and stick a flag behind them in celebration of Independence Day, we conflate the two. Weaker brothers and sisters in the faith who already muddle American citizenship with heavenly citizenship are further confirmed in their confusion. We should be making these distinctions clearer, not encouraging their commingling.

Yet this is exactly what happens on Christian web sites, social media, and even in our churches as the 4th of July draws near. Sisters, this should not be so.

None of the verses in the Bible which contain words like “freedom” and “liberty” are referring to American political freedom. None. The verses containing these words are usually speaking of freedom from sin in Christ, freedom from Mosaic Covenant law, or freedom from literal slavery. We must use and understand them in context, or we are doing violence to the text and treating God’s holy Word with apathetic irreverence.

Here are the top 10 Scriptures I observed being twisted on the 4th of July.

1. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17

Most of the memes using this verse omit the first phrase, because even including those six extra words tends to give too much context to the verse for the person trying to make it about American freedom. If you read all of chapter three, or even just verses 12-18, you can see that this verse is about being set free in Christ from the demands of the Mosaic Covenant. Although 2 Corinthians 3:17 was misused by many, the first place I saw it was was from Lysa TerKeurst’s Proverbs 31 Facebook page – emblematic of why Christian women should not receive Bible teaching from anyone associated with this organization.

2. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Most incorrect citations of this verse include only its first phrase. Indeed, Christ has set us free for freedom, but freedom from what? English tyranny? Political oppression? No, as the rest of the verse goes on to say, Christ has set us free from the yoke of slavery to the Law. In Christ, we are free to stop striving to be good enough to earn right standing with Him, and to rest in His finished work on the cross to clothe us in His righteousness. That’s way better than American constitutional freedoms because that kind of freedom is available to anyone, in any country, at any time in history who repents and places her faith in Christ for salvation.

3. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13

This is a great verse that Christians can live out in service to our families, our church families, and even our fellow Americans. But we need to understand that when this verse says we were “called to freedom” it’s not talking about the rallying cry of the American Revolution. The freedom we were called to – as with Galatians 5:1 – is the freedom from striving to obey the Law to obtain righteousness. But just because we’re no longer under the constraints of the Law doesn’t mean we can go out and sin at will, or indulge the flesh by doing whatever we feel like doing. That’s antinomianism. Instead we’re to use our freedom from the Law as an opportunity to deny self and serve others.

4. if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

I’ve written at length on this verse in my article Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s Promise to American Christians Today? The short answer is “no,” it is not about America. Although there’s plenty that Christians can learn from this verse, it is a promise to Israel, as the surrounding context clearly indicates.

5. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Even adding just two verses (34-35) to this one give enough context to help us understand that Jesus is talking about being freed from slavery to sin through the salvation only He can provide – the salvation that is about to cost Him the agony of scourging and death on a cross. It is appalling that this verse – spoken by our Lord Himself, about the earth-shattering, awe-provoking amazingness that is the forgiveness of sins by the grace of God in Christ – should be so lowered and sullied as to try to make it refer to American freedom.

6. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16

The context of this verse is similar to Galatians 5:13 (#3 above), but it adds a couple of extra facets. If you read verses 9-17 of 1 Peter 2, you’ll notice the same instruction to live as people who have been set free in Christ and to use that freedom in Christ to serve others. Why? “…So that when [the Gentiles] speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God… For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (12,15) When we use our freedom in Christ to serve and do good, it is a testimony of the gospel to the lost. This passage also exhorts us to be subject to our government and our political leaders. And if you know anything about the first century Roman Empire, you know its Christian citizens (Peter’s audience) knew nothing of the political freedoms American Christians experience.

7. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lordthe people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm 33:12

In the immediate context and application of this verse, “nation” and “the people” is referring to Israel. Examining verses 10, 16, and 17 alongside verse 12, it’s a safe assumption that the psalmist had observed some part of Israel’s history that included war against neighboring nations. And, certainly, any Old Testament Scripture referring to the people God “has chosen as His heritage” could only be speaking of Israel. America didn’t even exist at that time, nor has God, at any point in Scripture, said that America is His chosen people or His heritage. If you want to think of a New Testament “nation” or “people” God has blessed and chosen as His “heritage,” that would be the church- the worldwide body of born again believers. While, ostensibly, any nation whose God is the Lord would be blessed, we have only to look back at Old Testament history to see how unlikely it would be for America’s God to be the Lord. Israel was God’s chosen people and heritage. They were “the nation whose God is the Lord”- literally. They were a theocracy – under the direct rule of God Himself – yet they rejected Him in favor of earthly kings and repeated cycles of idol worship. And we think America is capable of becoming “one nation under God”?

8. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. Leviticus 25:10

It’s pretty easy to see why only the phrase “proclaim liberty through the land to all its inhabitants” is lifted out of this verse. It is obviously talking about Israel’s Year of Jubilee which has never been practiced in America because we are not, and never have been, under the Mosaic Covenant. Even Israel doesn’t observe the Year of Jubilee any more. The use of this verse is simply a case of someone looking for a Scripture to attach to a patriotic meme, doing a concordance search for the word “liberty,” and whittling away everything in the verse that is obviously un-American.

9. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, Luke 4:18

Except for the fact that this verse includes the word “liberty” or “free,” depending on your translation, it’s incomprehensible to me that anyone would see this as a verse to use in the celebration of Independence Day. This verse doesn’t even make any sense when applied to America. It’s not about a country, it’s about a person: Jesus. Jesus spoke these words. He’s quoting Isaiah 61:1-2, which is a prophecy of the Messiah to come. If you read a mere three more verses of Luke 4, you’ll see in verse 21 that Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Meaning what? Jesus is saying, “You know that Messiah you’ve been waiting on for centuries, Israel? I’m it. I’m here.” And the liberty or freedom He’s talking about? Once again, it’s freedom from sin and freedom from the Law. Because that’s what Jesus came to give us.

10. Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. Psalm 118:5 

Nope, this one isn’t about American political freedom either. A couple of things to notice: first, this is clearly set in the context of Israel’s Old Testament history, as verses 2-3, with their references to “Israel” and “Aaron”, indicate. Next, look at the personal pronouns, not only in verse 5, but also in verses 6-7: “I,” “me,” “my.” This verse is not about America being set free from England, or even about Israel being set free from one of its enemies. This is a descriptive passage about an individual – the psalmist – being in some sort of distressing situation, and God answering his prayer for deliverance. Have you ever prayed that God would deliver you from a difficult time in your life? If He did, do you think that unique situation is applicable to anyone else, much less an entire country? This passage is kind of the same thing. The psalmist is sharing something God did for him, not commenting on politics or even assuring other individuals that God will do the same for them.

Memorial Day Bonus:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Memorial Day is a solemn and precious day to honor those who have laid down their lives for our freedom as Americans. Every male member of my immediate family has served or is serving in the military, and I know just how blessed I am that they have all returned safe and sound. It takes a special kind of person to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country, and I certainly don’t want to take anything away from that. But as meaningful as that is, it can’t – and shouldn’t – compare to Christ laying down His life to make sinners His friends. And that’s what this verse is about. For twelve verses, Jesus has talked to His disciples about abiding in Him because He loves them so much. In verse 13, He talks about the proof of His love for them: He’s about to give His life as the atoning sacrifice for their sin. He wants them to love each other the same way – that for Christ’s sake, in Christ’s name – they would be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. Eleven of the twelve of them would go on to do so. When we use this verse in reference to Memorial Day – as deeply consequential as that day is – it tarnishes the infinitely more important sacrifice of Christ by comparing a mere man’s offering of his life for temporal, earthly freedom, to God’s offering of His sinless Son to purchase for eternity the redemption of sinful rebels.

I’m proud and grateful to be an American. I’m thankful for this nation and the freedoms we have as citizens. But for everyone who’s a citizen of the Kingdom of God, our loyalty and reverence must lie with Him first and must surpass all other loyalties – to family, to friends, and even to country. That means we reverence God’s holy Word by being good students of it and handling it correctly, by preserving and standing up for its meaning and intentions, and by refusing to manipulate it for our own lesser purposes- even such a noble purpose as patriotism.


Photo Credits
The references below are for the purpose of photo credits only. I have not examined most of these sites and do not endorse any which contradict my beliefs as cited in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.

1. https://www.facebook.com/Prov31Ministries/photos/a.390955286960.162138.99550061960/10154692176801961/?type=1&theater
2. https://stjosephslanc.com/july-5-2015-the-fourteenth-sunday-in-ordinary-time/
3. https://www.facebook.com/ConcernedWomenforAmerica/photos/a.119423980992.123545.77903485992/10155305900670993/?type=3&theater
5. https://twitter.com/robertjeffress/status/746696996208074752
6. http://dailybiblememe.com/tag/1-peter-216/
7. http://simplylkj.blogspot.com/2016/07/happy-4th-of-july.html
8. https://thepatriotstrumpet.com/
9. http://www.klove.com/
10. http://heavy.com/news/2016/07/patriotic-bible-verses-quotes-scripture-independence-day-4th-fourth-of-july/
Memorial Day Bonus: http://unitetheusa.org/id165.html

Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s Promise to American Christians Today?

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(If you’re participating in the 1&2 Timothy study,
lesson 11 is coming your way on Friday.)

Originally published July 3, 2015ICYWW 2 Chron 7 14

Is 2 Chronicles 7:14 God’s promise to American Christians today?

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14

This verse is often quoted as a call to prayer and revival for American Christians, suggesting that if we pray, repent, and humble ourselves, God will turn America around and make it “one nation under God” again. Since it’s 4th of July week, you’ve probably been seeing this verse in your news feeds, but is it really a promise to us today about America?

2ch714

Photo courtesy of Please Convince Me.

Not this particular verse, no. Here’s why:

1. This verse is only part of a sentence (you can tell by the way it starts with a lowercase letter). In order to rightly handle God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15), it’s imperative that we consider a verse’s immediate context as well as the way it fits in with the big picture of the entire Bible. Even adding just verses 13 and 15 shows us that this verse was written about Old Testament Israel, not America. Reading all of chapter 7 sheds even more light on this verse, and if we throw in chapter 6, especially 6:26-31, we can clearly see that 7:14 is part of God’s specific answer to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple.

2. There are no supporting Scriptures in the New Testament (remember, Believers are in the church era under the new covenant of grace) that imply that if Christians humble themselves and repent that God will give them a nation governed by biblical laws and leaders and that we will have a society that behaves itself, morally. In fact, in the New Testament, in the early church, we see the exact opposite. The more the church prayed, humbled itself, and spread the gospel, the more Rome persecuted Christians. And yet, we never hear of them claiming 2 Chronicles 7:14 as God’s promise to them that He would turn things around if they would only humble themselves and seek His face more. The New Testament, even Jesus Himself, says that we will be persecuted for godly living (John 15:20, Matthew 10:22, 2 Timothy 3:12-13).

3. We can’t claim the promise without claiming the punishment. Look again at verse 13. It specifies that the agricultural hardships of drought, locust infestation, and pestilence are the ones that God promises to heal. It is a promise of literal healing of the land so that crops will grow unharmed, game will be plentiful, and people will be able to eat, not a promise of a metaphorical “healing” of a nation’s immorality.

If we claim that this “healing of the land” applies to us today, then we also have to claim that God will punish our disobedience with those very things He promises to heal (drought, locusts, and pestilence), because that’s what these verses are talking about.

4. The reason this passage sounds like it applies to us is because there are some principles in this verse that do apply to us. How do we know? Because they are supported by other clear and direct Scriptures:

Are we God’s people who are called by His name”? Yes (Acts 11:26)

Should we humble ourselves? Yes (1 Peter 5:6)

Should we pray and seek God’s face? Yes (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

Should we turn from any wicked ways we practice? Yes (Acts 3:19)

Will God hear from Heaven if we do these things? Yes (1 John 5:14-15)

Does God promise to heal our land of bad morals or the agricultural problems He has punished our disobedience with if we do these things? No.

Asking God to fulfill His promises and thanking Him for those already fulfilled is a wonderful and worshipful way to pray. But, if we truly want to pray “in the name of Jesus” and pray rightly for God’s will to be done, we must use wisdom, discernment, and the tools God has given us to discover exactly what He has promised us.

For further reading:

Properly Praying the Promises by Michelle Lesley

What is the meaning of 2 Chronicles 7:14? at Got Questions?

The Most Shared Verses in Their Context (2 Chronicles 7:14) at Borrowed Light