The Ten (10 Commandments Bible Study)

The Ten: Lesson 4

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3

Exodus 20:4-6

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 32:1-10

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

1 John 5:20-21

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. One of the themes of Exodus we’ve discovered in this study is that God is setting His people apart from the surrounding pagan nations and establishing Israel as a nation. How does the second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6) relate to that theme? Think about what and how pagan nations worshiped. How does the second Commandment set God’s people uniquely apart from pagans and set the worship of God apart from the worship of false gods? How does worshiping God without any sort of visual aid or representation point us to God’s vastness, uniqueness, “other-ness,” and power in comparison with idols?

2. What does it mean that God is a jealous God in the context of the second Commandment (idol worship)? (Exodus 20:5a) Think about God’s nature and character as well as His patience, kindness, and benevolence toward His people both in the Old Testament and today. Doesn’t God have a right to be jealous for His people? What are the consequences of breaking or keeping the second Commandment? (Exodus 20:5b-6)

3. Some Christians believe that the second Commandment prohibits making any representation of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit regardless of whether or not that representation is worshiped. They believe, for example, that nativity scenes and plays in which the baby Jesus is depicted, pictures of Jesus in children’s Bibles, pictures of Jesus used for teaching the Bible to non-readers or lost people on the mission field, are a violation of the second Commandment even though these representations of Jesus are not being worshiped. Do you think the context of Exodus 20:4-6 supports this belief? Why or why not? Can you think of any other Scriptures that support or refute this belief?

4. Examine the Exodus 32 passage. How did the people break the second Commandment? Why did the people want Aaron to make an idol for them? (1) When we find ourselves in idolatry – worshiping, loving, or being devoted to something or someone above God – what is the motive of our hearts? Where did the people get the gold jewelry (2-4) that Aaron used to make the calf? What was God’s initial response to this incident? (10) Can you see how it stirs God to anger when we take things that He has created and blessed us with and worship those things rather than the One who gave them to us?

5. In the Exodus 32 passage, what act of God did the people attribute to the golden calf? (4,8) How does it break the second Commandment to call something “God” that is not the God revealed in Scripture? To attribute an action or characteristic of God to something that is not God? How does the 1 John passage and the idea of the “true God” and “him who is true” contrast with the Israelites’ worship of the golden calf as God?

6. Today, in Western culture, we don’t usually carve idols out of wood or stone and bow down to them. But what about creating idols with our hearts and minds instead of our hands? Have you ever “created God in your own image” – a God who fits your opinions, preferences, feelings, or unbiblical beliefs – and worshiped or trusted that god instead of the true God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit of Scripture? How is that similar to the Israelites’ fashioning a golden calf and essentially calling it God? What does the 1 Corinthians passage say about Christians who practice this or any other form of idolatry and how the church is to deal with them?


Homework:

Listen closely this week to the sermon at church, your Sunday School or Bible study class lesson, any Christian books, magazines, blogs, or social media posts you read, and any Christian music you listen to. Is the God depicted in these venues consistent with the way God reveals Himself in Scripture? Do you find any of these sermons, articles, songs, etc., to be breaking the second Commandment by presenting a false view of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?

Uncategorized

Advertising Redux

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Hi Y’all-

As you may or may not have noticed, I recently qualified for an advertising program called WordAds, which is offered through the host site of my blog, WordPress. I allow WordAds to run ads on my site (at the end of the first article on the home page, and at the end of every subsequent page you click on) and they pay me a modest sum (depending on how many people see the ads) in return. I haven’t received any income from WordAds yet, so this is a trial run over the next few months to see how it works and whether or not it’s worth it.

In the past (without alerting me or giving me any remuneration), WordPress has run ads on my more heavily trafficked articles. In the last seven years (since 2011, when I joined WordPress) I’ve received only three or four reports of an ad being biblically inappropriate. Last week I received one more report. So, I thought I would rerun the article that follows (originally published July 26, 2015, and updated to include information about WordAds) to provide a little more insight as to how this all works. Should you need to review this information in the future, there is a link to the original article under the “Welcome- Start Here” tab at the top of this page.


Thanks so much to those of you who have alerted me that inappropriate ads (containing material that conflicts with biblical values) occasionally appear on my site.

My family is a one income family, so I allow WordPress to run ads on my site as a way to bring in a little extra money. Normally, the ads that run are family friendly, but a few times, readers have reported seeing ads that are inappropriate. I want to assure you that I do not select these ads, nor am I given an opportunity to approve or reject them.

I have contacted WordPress about the ads. This is the response they sent me:

“We endeavor to make sure that no inappropriate ads are shown, but occasionally some do make it through. If you or any of your visitors see inappropriate ads, we ask that you (or they) take a screenshot of the ad and forward it to us at wordads@wordpress.com.”

Since I don’t always see the same ads on my end that you see on yours, I would be most grateful if you would alert WordPress in this way should you ever see an ad that’s inappropriate (you can also click on the “About These Ads” link above the ad itself). Sending polite feedback to WordPress – which, to their credit, they have requested – is the best way to get them to keep their advertising appropriate for all of their sites, not just mine.

Additionally, one of my Facebook friends offered this advice:

“Often if people are using Facebook apps or 3rd party apps, such as are used for games, those kinds of ads show up. Different ads for different users. Google is able to customize the ads based on Internet activity. When I blocked 3rd party cookies and all apps, the questionable ads on my feed and Internet activity disappeared.”

Also, if you are bothered by ads on the sites you visit (not just mine), your browser may offer a free ad blocker that will reduce or eliminate them. I use Google Chrome as my browser, and installed Ublock a while back. It has been very helpful.

I apologize for any inappropriate ads you have seen in the past or may see in the future. It is my desire that my blog glorify God and be a place where biblical values are upheld.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should Women Take Church Concerns to the Pastor?

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My pastor says we should come to him individually with concerns instead of talking behind his back, so I have taken a concern of mine to him. Because a pastor can’t be alone with a woman, he had his wife at the first meeting and three members of the board at the second meeting. It then becomes a me vs. them argument with them saying, “Listen to the pastor, he’s always right.” Because he is the pastor and a man, should I not bring my concerns to him, even though he said we should?

Great question. It’s important that pastors and church members communicate clearly about any concerns that arise in the life of a church. In this situation, there are several things to sort out:

1. Any church member, male or female, should talk (kindly, lovingly, and respectfully, of course) to the pastor about any concerns. Your pastor is right to encourage you to bring concerns to him and to discourage gossip and backbiting. (There are some concerns that can be handled at a lower level initially, for example, going directly to a person committing a sin {Matthew 18:15-20}, or concerns that should first be taken to an elder in keeping with any existing church policies regarding this. This is not because of a male/female thing, but to keep the pastor from being overwhelmed. Kind of like the way Jethro told Moses he should get some elders to help him judge the people in Exodus 18.)

2. Your pastor is also right and wise not to meet alone with a woman. It protects him as well as the woman.

3. If the elders are literally saying “the pastor is always right,” that’s problematic. There are some things you’ll need to think about and ask about if that’s what they’re saying. Is it possible you misunderstood what was said or that the elder(s) misspoke? Is this their standard answer to every problem raised by a church member? Does the pastor know they’re saying this, and, if so, does he approve of them saying this or has he corrected them? If he knows this is the elders’ standard answer to people and he approves of it, that is not biblical. Pastors are not infallible dictators. Pastors are to be accountable to the elders; the elders are not to be a rubber stamp for the pastor.

On the other hand, you didn’t indicate what your concern was. Perhaps they were just saying the pastor was biblically right in your particular case. Perhaps you’ve brought a concern to the pastor that was an issue of personal preference instead of a biblical issue, and the pastor is going in a direction that is biblically correct but doesn’t sit well with your preferences. In those kinds of cases, Scripture does say that we’re to submit to our leaders (Hebrews 13:17). Maybe this is what they meant.

It’s great that you want to deal with your concerns in an above board, biblical way. Be prayerful about the situation and ask God to give you wisdom and a godly heart as you seek to work through the problem.


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, 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.

Bible Study, Church

McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word

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“Why can’t we just be taught a book of the Bible?” I heard this again today from a Christian woman hungry for her church to teach her the truth of God’s word. It’s a cry being raised by women from all over, scrounging through the dumpster of “Bible” teaching their church currently offers, searching for something – anything – that will nourish their hearts, minds, and souls with biblical truth so that they might actually be able to grow in Christ.

What’s going on here, church? Pastors? Women’s ministries? Why are godly women starving for the word of God at their own churches? This is a problem. And it’s not a small one. And it’s not going away. It’s getting worse.

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My family is a one income family. My husband works hard to provide for us, and we’ve made a lot of (completely worthwhile) sacrifices so I can stay home and raise and home school our children. One of those sacrifices is that we rarely get to eat out, even at a fast food restaurant. That means I cook. A lot. Fortunately, I happen to enjoy cooking, but it does take several hours of work a week. And sometimes, at the end of a long day, I’m tired and not particularly in the mood to spend a couple of hours on my feet chopping and mixing and sautéeing and stirring and roasting. I’d much rather chuck it and have my husband pick up McDonald’s on his way home. In fact, if we could afford it, and I couldn’t cook, and I thought it was healthy, my family would probably eat fast food for supper three or four times a week. I like fast food. My kids LOVE fast food. And why do all that work if you don’t have to and there’s an easier option, right?

But that’s no way to feed a family. It makes people obese and can lead to all kinds of other physical problems like heart disease, hypertension, and digestive ailments because the majority of fast food is high in the bad stuff (cholesterol, sodium, fat) and low in the good stuff (fiber, vitamins, minerals). Not to mention that having other people do the work God has assigned me is the lazy way out.

Yet while it’s easy to see how detrimental and unhealthy it is to feed a family a regular fare of fast food in the physical realm, this is exactly what most churches are doing in the spiritual realm when it comes to their Bible study menu.

“My pastor asked me to teach a women’s Bible study class. What’s a good book to use?”
“Why don’t you just teach them a book of the Bible?”
“Oh, I don’t feel equipped to do that.”

“Our Sunday School class is looking for a new curriculum. Any suggestions?”
“How about just working through a book of the Bible?”
“Our teacher works a lot of hours and doesn’t really have the time to study and prepare like that.”

screenshot-2016-11-10-at-12-31-44-pm-editedI hear this kind of thing over and over and over again. Churches aren’t even attempting to train people to properly teach the Bible, and Bible study “teachers,” (often through no fault of their own) either don’t know they need to be trained, or don’t have training available to them, or they’re unwilling or unable to put in the time and effort to be trained and to prepare lessons.

We have classes that need teachers, so we take whoever is available and willing, and we stick them in front of a group of people, hand them a take out bag of McBible Studies written by the celebrity Christian du jour and say, “Here. Feed the church family.”

That’s a problem in and of itself, first and foremost, because relying solely on pre-fab studies due to the fact that no one is trained to instruct the people of your church in the word of God isn’t biblical. The Bible says that pastors, elders, and teachers in the local church body should be “able to teach.” Not facilitate. Not read aloud what someone else wrote. Not “able to work a DVD player.” Teach.

But recruiting “teachers” who are unskilled in handling God’s word to lead a pre-packaged study often morphs into another dangerous problem, especially in the area of women’s Bible study: importing false doctrine into your church. Here’s a list of LifeWay’s top selling books for 2015. Every single non-fiction book on this list that’s likely to be used for a women’s group or individual Bible study (seven of the twelve by my count- which is a staggering proportion considering LifeWay also sells men’s studies, theology books, training manuals, “Christian living” books, and a wide variety of other non-fiction topics, but I digress) is written by a false teacher. Every. single.one.

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In my research of women’s Bible study authors and teachers, I estimate that approximately ninety-five per cent of the the female authors and teachers on the shelves at your local Christian retailer are false teachers. That goes way beyond a biblical “diet” laden with cholesterol and fat. Now, we’re talking about spiritual food tainted with E.coli. If you’ve got a woman in your church who’s facilitating a class using materials by one of these false teachers because she’s not competent enough in God’s word to teach the Bible, how in the world is she going to be able to catch and correct the false doctrine these Christian celebrities are teaching her class?

The answer is: she’s not. In fact, her awareness of her own incompetence in Scripture and her assumption that the Christian celebrity knows what she’s talking about (Because, after all, she’s a celebrity and LifeWay sells her materials, so she must know what she’s talking about, right?) will have the exact opposite effect. She will downplay and keep quiet about any nagging doubts – assuming she knows her Bible well enough to even have those doubts – in her own mind that the Christian celebrity is teaching things contrary to sound doctrine, and she will affirm the false doctrine that’s being taught. Then, this harmful bacteria of false doctrine will spread from woman to woman and class to class, and discerning women, knowing that the kitchen is contaminated, will grow emaciated from a lack of clean cuisine to feed on. We end up with a church full of “Bible” study and Sunday School classes that teach fluff and false doctrine instead of the unadulterated word of God. To borrow from Coleridge: “Food, food, every where, nor any bite to eat.” We’ve got a famine of God’s word, right in His very own house.

 

Church, pastors, women’s ministries- we’ve got to put a stop to this. People teaching Sunday School, Bible study classes, and, particularly, women’s Bible study classes must be trained in basic hermeneutics, the competent handling of God’s word in context, and the ability to teach sound doctrine as well as to refute the false. Do we not believe Scripture, or somehow think our church is exempt from it, when it says:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

or

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

Where is our fear of God and our obedience to His word? We would never think of letting an untrained, incompetent teacher teach our children math or science in school when all that’s at stake is their academic education. Why are we satisfied to let untrained people teach the Bible at church when people’s eternities are at stake?

It doesn’t take years of seminary training. I never went to culinary school, but I’m still able to cook and feed my family a healthy diet because of what I’ve learned from others. Pastors can train teachers. Skilled Bible teachers can train others to teach. There are even great materials (like this one that was used in a training session I participated in last year) that can help as you teach people how to teach the Bible.

A doctrinally sound book study can be a fun, interesting, or useful supplement to the regular, straight teaching of Scripture in a Bible study class, but even these shouldn’t be used in place of training teachers. The best theologian out there isn’t a living and active member of that class. He doesn’t know the strengths and weaknesses of the class’s theology. He can’t address their current struggles and questions. He doesn’t love them, care about them, pray for them, and labor in the Word for them.

Only real life, trained, biblically competent teachers can do those things. They are vital and they are irreplaceable.

So let’s quit shoving Happy Meals into the hands of women who are starving for the pure milk and meat of God’s word. Let’s offer some cooking classes and set the table so the members of our churches can sit down to a healthy, home cooked diet of nourishing food that will help them grow to spiritual maturity in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And, now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go start supper.

The Ten (10 Commandments Bible Study)

The Ten: Lesson 3

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2

Exodus 20:1-3

And God spoke all these words, saying,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

Matthew 4:9-10

And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”

Ezekiel 14:1-11

Then certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the Lord will answer him myself. And I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the Lord. And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. 10 And they shall bear their punishment—the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike— 11 that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord God.”

Matthew 19:16-30

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Take a moment to briefly review the previous lessons (links above). What are some of the major themes we have seen in God’s dealings with Israel so far in the book of Exodus? How does Exodus 20:1-2 serve as an introduction and foundation to the 10 Commandments, showcasing God’s goodness and His right to rule Israel?

2. What does the first Commandment, Exodus 20:3, mean? Is God saying it’s OK for His people to worship other gods as long as He has first place? Compare Exodus 20:3 with Matthew 4:9-10. What did Jesus understand the first Commandment to mean? Where does the temptation to worship other gods come from? Who is ultimately being worshiped when someone worships a false god?

3. Why do you think God made this the first Commandment? How is the first Commandment foundational to every other command or teaching in Scripture? Can you keep the first Commandment while breaking another biblical command? Why or why not?

4. How was Israel breaking the first Commandment in the Ezekiel 14 passage? How did God respond to their attempt to approach Him as their God while still embracing their foreign gods? (8-10) How did this impact their relationship with God? (5,7,11) What did God say the people should do? (6) What would be the result of Israel’s repentance from idolatry? (5,11)

5. In the Matthew 19 passage, which Commandments did Jesus tell the rich young ruler he should keep? (18-19) Which Commandments did Jesus not mention? Were the Commandments Jesus mentioned from the first or second table of the Law? How did the rich young ruler demonstrate that he was unwilling to keep the first Commandment? (20-22) What was his god? How did Peter’s response (27) to Christ differ from the rich young ruler’s response? How did the disciples keep the first Commandment by giving up everything to follow Christ?

6. In what ways do we break the first Commandment today? What are some other “gods” we love and dedicate ourselves to before, or in addition to, Christ? Review the questions in #4. How do these principles apply to Christians today? Think over all that Christ has done for you. How is it an act of worship and thanks to Him to keep the first Commandment?


Homework:

Give this song a listen. Could you sing these lyrics truthfully? In what ways does it exemplify the first Commandment? Are you breaking the first Commandment in any areas of your heart and life? Repent and receive Christ’s forgiveness.