Bible Study

A Hard Bible for Hard Times

These days, popular women’s “Bible” studies tend to be seven lessons of fluff, feelings, and false doctrine.

This is the “anti-study”.

Roughly 20 lessons of digging into the text of what can be a challenging passage of Scripture.

I believe you’re up for the challenge, ladies. Let’s study.

A couple of days ago, I launched Ezekiel – our new Bible study here on the blog – with these introductory remarks on social media. I made it pretty clear, both in my social media remarks and the introduction to the study itself that this wasn’t going to be your typical walk-in-the-park women’s “Bible” study designed to make you feel better about yourself.

Ezekiel is a long book. There are parts of it that are going to be hard to understand. There are parts of it that, to our flesh, are going to be boring. There are cubits. Lots and lots of cubits. This is a Bible study that’s going to require extra work – probably with commentaries and study Bibles. And I’m not making any “feel good” guarantees.

And yet, I was overwhelmed by the response from so many readers: “I’m in!” “Sign me up!” “Looks like a good time!” “Excited is an understatement!”

All this about….a hard text? More work? Even as we endure Corona and quarantine, separation from loved ones, the shuttering of our churches, economic hardship, increasing persecution, racial strife, rampant crime, rioting, anarchy, and God only knows what’s next?

Yeah. Want to know why?

It’s the same reason that being bone-weary after a long day of hot, sweaty yard work feels better than the mind-numbed sleepiness you feel when you’ve been binge-watching Netflix in your pajamas all day. The same reason you feel better after a satisfying, well-balanced meal than after snarfing a dozen Oreos.

It’s what we need.

It’s what’s good for us.

It’s accomplishing something lasting.

We need a hard Bible in these hard times.

Think about the hard times the first century Christians of the New Testament went through. For refusing to offer a pinch of incense in worship to Caesar, for declaring that Jesus alone – not Jesus plus the pantheon – is Lord, they were fed to the lions for sport, burned and boiled alive, crucified, beheaded, speared, beaten, stoned, whipped, exiled, and considered “the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”

And for most of that first century, the bulk of the Scriptures Believers had access to was the Old Testament. The part that soft, milquetoasty, “I want a God made in my own image” evangelicals today want to “unhitch” from precisely because it’s hard.

While fearing for their very lives for following Christ, our forefathers in the faith studied the God who flooded the earth for its rebellion against Him, who wiped out pagan nations for their idolatry, who sent horrific plagues upon those who defied Him, and who poured out His wrath on His own people for their sin and spiritual whoredom.

They had a hard Bible during their hard times.

To be sure, they saw, and we also see, the God of mercy, love, and grace who spared Noah, who provided His children with a land flowing with milk and honey, who rescued the Hebrews out of slavery, and who blessed all who were faithful to Him. And we know that all of Scripture – the hard to swallow parts and the easy to embrace parts, the “dig in and study hard” parts and the simple and sweet to the soul parts – all of Scripture is profitable.

But we need a hard Bible for hard times.

Because hard passages that make us stop and spend extra time and effort build discipline, endurance, and patience into our spirits. They make us do the hard work of digging for the nature and character of God and reward us with the treasure of knowing Him more intimately. They show us who God is in a unique way that the easy passages do not.

Feelings, fluff, and false doctrine can never accomplish those ends. They do not prepare us to endure suffering and persecution with strength and dignity, but to whine and complain and focus on the hurt. They do not teach us who God truly is in our trials and temptations, but that we can create a custom-made idol we’re comfortable with and call it “God”. They do not lead us to trust and obey God when the going gets tough, but to abandon His Word and His statutes in favor of worldly means and methods of dealing with difficulties.

Most evangelical women today are spiritually flaccid because no one – not their denomination, nor their church, nor their pastor, nor their Sunday School teachers, nor their women’s ministry leaders, nor their favorite “Bible” study authors – has ever made them do the hard work of wrestling with challenging Scriptures, overcoming them, and adding that victory to their inventory of joy in Christ.

We need to raise the bar.

We need to expect more, not less.

We need to encourage the pink side of the pew to do hard spiritual things, and cheer them on and help them as they try.

The Kingdom doesn’t need weak women who don’t know their Bibles because all they’ve been taught – and all they’ve been taught to hunger for – is feelings, fluff, and false doctrine. Because those women crumple in the face of controversy. They fall away rather than stand and fight.

The Kingdom needs strong, godly women who apply their hearts and minds to knowing and understanding God’s Word and reach down to help their weaker sisters do the same.

Hiding God’s Word in our hearts doesn’t just mean we learn the surface-level do’s and don’t’s, giving us a spiritual Post-It note reminder not to lie and steal. In order to hide something, we first have to possess it. Own it. And to own God’s Word we have to plunge in and swim in it. Breathe it in and out. Drink deeply of it. Eat the honey-sweet scroll. Let it so penetrate our souls’ DNA that when the rooster begins to crow, and the accusers point and say, “I know you. You were with Jesus,” we can plant our feet firmly and mean it when we boldly declare, “Yes. And though others may fall away because of Him, I will never fall away. Even if I must die for Jesus, I will not sin by denying Him.”

Because those hard times are coming.

Indeed, they are already here.

And we need a hard Bible for hard times.

Favorite Finds

Favorite Finds: June 9, 2020

 

Here are a few of my favorite online finds…

 

“Behind the storyline of Scripture is the story of how God, in his providence, gave his words to us. When God spoke, he ensured that it would be preserved through a process of writing, collecting, copying, translating, and printing. After thousands of years, the Scripture that began with the breath of God now comes to us in the Book that is worthy of our supreme trust.” Check out this fascinating article from Dirk Jongkind, How We Got the Bible: The Great Story of Sacred Scripture.

 

 

Here’s an informative and helpful infographic from Crossway, How do you read the Bible? “When do you read the Bible? How often? What portions of Scripture do you tend to gravitate toward, and are there particular extra-biblical resources you use alongside your Bible to help you process and study it? We surveyed over 6,000 people to learn about Bible study habits. In some cases, the results were quite convicting.”

 

Parents of older kids, do you have a prodigal- a child who has chosen worldliness over godliness, sin over the Savior? Hey, About Your Prodigal by our friend Michael Coughlin over at Things Above Us will bring you a great deal of peace and comfort as he walks us through the Scriptures that show us how to cope, and that God knows what it’s like to be the Father of prodigals too.

 

 

Freebie time! The good people at Monergism “believe the Church should have open access to Scripturally/Theologically sound edifying Christian literature and that one need not be held back from having a significant Christian library because of cost.” And so they offer us 575 Free eBooks Listed Alphabetically by Author. That should give all of us plenty to read for a while!

 

Here’s a brief, yet instructive video from WordBoard on Mark 2:20, What Is the Point of Fasting?


The resources listed above are not to be understood as a blanket endorsement for the websites on which they appear, or of everything the author or subject of the resource says or does. I do not endorse any person, website, or resource that conflicts with Scripture or the theology outlined in the Statement of Faith and Welcome tabs at the top of this page.
Apologetics, Bible

Without Apology: 7 Reasons Not to Be Ashamed of the Hard Parts of the Gospel

Originally published November 4, 2016

7-not-ashamed

I am not ashamed of the gospel…

Romans 1:16 is such a great verse, isn’t it? And one of the things that’s great about it is that we can all agree on it. I mean, no self-respecting Christian would dream of saying she’s ashamed of the gospel, would she? It’s a rallying cry for evangelism and for standing against persecution. Of course we’re not ashamed.

In theory. But in practice?

You see, the gospel is the good news of salvation. And, while we don’t tend to share the entire Bible when we share the gospel with someone, the good news starts in Genesis with a holy God who created a perfect world, and moves on to the first people who messed everything up with their sin, a whole bunch of subsequent people who couldn’t be faithful to God and keep His Law, Christ and His redemption of sinners, and the Revelation of the hope of His return at the end of time. So, “the gospel” really stretches from the front cover of your Bible to the back cover.

Are there any parts of it you shy away from in evangelism, discipleship, or teaching?

What about the atheist you’re witnessing to who denigrates your God for committing genocide in the Old Testament?

Were you afraid to speak up the last time you were the only Creationist in a room full of evolutionists?

Have you ever seen some poor pastor or male teacher tiptoe his way through the minefield of a passage on marital submission or the biblical role of women in ministry lest the wrath of church ladies befall him?

Are you reluctant to be known as someone who believes and will unequivocally say that homosexuality and other deviant sexual behavior is a sin?

Hey, we’ve all been there and failed. These are tough passages for sinners to hear, after all! When they come up, we should certainly approach them wisely and lovingly with people, but we should take care never to wish these things (and others) weren’t in Scripture, feel embarrassed about them, apologize for them, or act as though we have to make excuses for God about them. We need to be just as willing, bold, kind, and comfortable saying, “The world did not evolve, God created it,” and “You must repent of homosexuality along with all your other sin,” as we are saying, “God is love.” Why?

1. The Bible is God’s word.

Scripture is the very words of the God of the universe. It’s not a storybook or a policy and procedure manual dreamed up by men. Scripture is God speaking to us. To be ashamed of any part of His word is to be ashamed of Him, what He has done, and who He is. We dare not.

2. The Bible glorifies God.

The mere existence of Scripture brings honor and glory to God. No other god has spoken personally, so magnificently, and in a living and active book, to his people. The Bible brings glory to God when His people believe and obey it. We exemplify His goodness and holiness to a watching world. And even when the Bible isn’t believed and obeyed, God is glorified by showing us in His word that His way is right and perfect and man’s way is not.

3. The Bible is perfect.

God didn’t leave anything out of the Bible or put anything extra in that shouldn’t be there. The Bible is perfect just the way it is. God doesn’t need us to help Him out by editing it. If He wanted it to say something different, it already would.

4. The Bible is right.

When God’s word says something is a sin, it is right. When God’s word tells us He, in His holiness, did something we think is unfair or distasteful, it is right. When God’s word requires us to do something, it is right. When someone balks at what the Bible says, it’s not the Bible that’s wrong. It’s that person’s sinful flesh that thinks it knows better than God what is good, appropriate, loving and fair. If a person comes up against the Bible, the Bible does not bend. That person bends. The knee. To God. If you are standing on the rightly divided word of God, you can be confident that you are in the right because the Bible is right. There’s no need for reticence.

5. The Bible is a blessing.

If you’ve ever studied the history of how you got the Bible sitting on your coffee table, you know just how amazing it is that you own one. Thousands of years, scores of writers, so many people who were martyred for penning it, protecting it, and translating it. How could we be ashamed of such a precious gift from God Himself?

6. The Bible is good for us.

God put those tough passages in the Bible because they’re good for you. And they’re good for the person who’s foaming at the mouth over the one you’re trying to explain to her, right now, too, she just doesn’t know it yet. God is a kind and loving Father who always does what is best for us. Those difficult passages would not be in the Bible if God didn’t want them there to benefit us in some way.

7. The Bible is useful.

 I can’t say it better than Scripture itself does:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

God uses every verse of Scripture – even the hard ones – to save us, grow us, conform us to His will, equip us, and reveal Himself to us. Why would we deny those saving, growing words to people who desperately need to hear them by shying away from them just because they’re difficult to say or unpleasant to hear?

Steve Lawson once said, “The Bible is not hard to understand. It is just hard to swallow.” And he’s so right. It’s not difficult to understand the concept that wives should submit to their husbands or that the God who sovereignly gave people life has every right to take it away. What’s difficult for us is to humble ourselves and cede control to Someone else. We think we know best. We want to run things and make the rules. We don’t want to submit to God’s authority.

In the end, there really aren’t any tough passages. There are only passages that come up against tough hearts. Tough hearts that need to be broken by the gospel, that they might repent of their sin and be forgiven by a great and merciful God.

And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

ps-19-7-9

Sin

Throwback Thursday ~ 9 Things that Are Still Sins Whether We Agree or Not

Originally published June 19, 20159 still sins

 

I do it all the time, Mother, and I’ve decided something-
it’s not a sin.

I heard this line several years ago on a popular sitcom, spoken by an adult daughter to her Christian mother about a behavior the Bible unambiguously calls a sin. I mean, it’s right smack dab in the middle of the Big 10; “thou shalt not” and everything.

It’s one thing to say, “I know it’s a sin, but I don’t care. I’m going to do it anyway,” but how depraved is the world when they think they – in God’s place – are the ones who get to define what sin is? And what’s even worse is that the church has begun to adopt this audacious depravity as well, whether approving of sin by fiat or by simply ignoring God’s word and letting sin slide without rebuke.

When it comes to what’s a sin and what’s not, God made up His mind a long time ago. And He’s not changing it, regardless of what you or I or Joe Politician or Jane Celebrity might think. Maybe we all need a remedial course in hamartiology, so let’s start with the basics. These things are all still sins whether the world and the church agree with God or not:

1. Homosexuality

Let’s just get it out of the way right up front. I don’t care how many celebrity “pastors” and “Christian” authors twist God’s word to say otherwise, or how many people declare themselves to be (unrepentant, practicing) “gay Christians,” or how many homosexuals declare that God made them that way, God’s word is clear: homosexual lust and behavior are sins.

2. Abortion

Abortion is the taking of an innocent human life. We don’t murder people because they’re small or sick or inconvenient or will hinder our sucess. God didn’t say, “You shall not murder, except when…” He said, “You shall not murder.” Period.

3. Extra-Marital (Heterosexual) Sex

Adultery, fornication, whatever form it might take, if you’re not legally married to the person you’re engaging in sexual activity – up to and including actual intercourse – with, you’re sinning.

4. Cohabitation

See #3. And don’t try to whitewash it by saying you’re living together but not sleeping together. A) The Bible says we’re to flee temptation, not move in with it, and B) we’re supposed to avoid every form of evil, even the appearance of it. If you call yourself a Christian and you’re shacking up, you’re living in sin (that’s why they call it “living in sin”). Repent and move out or marry up.

5. Divorce

Yep, still a sin, except in two cases: unfaithfulness or an unsaved spouse leaving a saved spouse. In those two cases the spouse who was wronged is not sinning and is free to marry again.

6. Swearing

The air is saturated with it. Foul language coming from our TVs, music, movies, social media, and the people we’re around all day. But expletives have no place in the vocabulary of a Christian. Is your potty mouth on Saturday the same one you praise God with on Sunday?

7. Taking God’s Name in Vain

It’s gotten to the point where we think so little of casually punctuating our sentences with, “Oh my G-d,”  or using the name of Jesus as an exclamation that pastors are even doing so from the pulpit these days. God’s name is high and holy and should be spoken only reverently and worshipfully. How can we look people in the eye and call them to repentance and faith in a Person whose name we use as a cuss word?

8. Gluttony

We have almost completely amputated gluttony from the spiritual realm by cordoning it off as merely a physical or medical issue. We’ve renamed it “overeating,” but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a sin. God created good food for us to enjoy, but just as with all the other good gifts He gives us, He expects us to exercise Spirit-enabled self control when we receive it.

9. Female Usurpation

God makes it abundantly clear in His word that women are not to instruct men in the Scriptures or hold authority over them in the church. Women sin when they pastor churches, preach sermons in church, teach men in Sunday School classes, and hold other positions of authority over men in the church. Men, however, bear the primarily responsibility for this when they sin by failing to rebuke usurping women, or when women feel they have no other choice but to take on male responsibilities in the church because men are shirking their own duties before God.

 

We don’t get to decide what sin is. That’s God’s job. And all of us – whether we’ve committed one of these nine sins or not – are guilty of sinning against Him. That’s the bad news.

But, in Christianity, we never give the bad news without following it up with the good news. And, oh what wonderfully good news it is: forgiveness. Jesus paid for our sin at Calvary so that if we will only turn from it and trust Him, He will forgive us for all nine of these sins and countless others.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

Bible Study

Nine Helps for Starting and Sticking to Daily Bible Study

We’ll be getting started on our new Bible study next week.
In the meantime, I thought this might be helpful.

Originally published March 31, 2015

9 helps daily bible study

It seems to be a common dilemma among new Christians, Christians who have never developed the habit of daily Bible study, and even those whose current Bible study methods or materials just don’t seem to be “working.” You know you need to be studying God’s word efficiently and effectively every day, but you aren’t quite sure how to get the ball rolling.

Let me just say right off the bat that getting over that ginormous hurdle between knowing you ought to study your Bible today and actually doing it is normal. Every Christian goes through that at least occasionally. So don’t worry that your flesh balking initially when it’s time to open your Bible means you aren’t saved or you don’t have enough faith, or whatever. But don’t let it stop you either. There are some things you can do to get off to a good start with setting up and sticking to a daily Bible study time. What can you do to set yourself up for success?

Prioritize It

Take a little time to get alone with the Lord, and be honest with Him and yourself. Is daily Bible study actually important to you – something you want to do? Why or why not? Do you feel like you should be studying, but you don’t really have a desire to? Ask God to help you understand your motivations and submit them to Him. Ask him to give you a passion for His word. Ask Him to help you to be obedient to Him in making His word a priority in your life.

Pair It

Pair your study time with something you already do faithfully, and at roughly the same time, every day. Study while you’re eating lunch, during the baby’s nap time, right after you exercise, as soon as you get up in the morning, etc. Piggybacking onto something that’s already built in to your schedule helps you stay faithful and keeps you from forgetting.

Plan for It

Do your best to block off your schedule for your Bible study time and guard that time from interruptions. Turn your phone off and get away from social media. Don’t schedule other appointments or activities that might run long and impinge on your study time. Take care of any possible contingencies that could come up before you get started.

Be Purposeful About It

The Bible should be studied in an orderly way so you can understand and apply it properly. I usually recommend simply picking up the Bible and studying it rather than using Bible study books and workbooks, and having a systematic plan of study is essential, not only to proper understanding and application of God’s word, but also to keep you from wasting time trying to figure out what to study each day. Choose a book of the Bible, start at the beginning, and work your way through it, or choose a plan for working your way through the New Testament, Old Testament, or whole Bible.

Pare It

Bible reading plans are great, but some of them can simply require so much daily reading that you don’t have time to slow down, take it all in, and linger over what you need to linger over. You don’t have to read the whole Bible in a year, but if a plan interests you, you could tweak the timing of it or pare it down in some way so you’re not biting off more than you can chew. Go for quality rather than an overwhelming quantity. Many beginners find that a chapter a day (unless it’s Psalm 119!) is just about right.

Partner with Someone

Check in regularly with a friend or your husband and discuss what each of you is learning from God’s word and how He’s using what you’re studying to make you more like Christ. It’s great fellowship and will help keep you both accountable to staying in the Word.

Positively Reinforce It

It’s true that studying God’s word is its own reward, but sometimes disciplining yourself to stick to a schedule needs a little extra boost of incentive, especially when you’re just starting out. How about making a deal with yourself that you can get on social media, watch TV, have dessert, etc., only after you’ve had your Bible study time? Or that if you don’t miss any days of studying your Bible for a whole week, you’ll reward yourself with an ice cream cone, a bubble bath or some other small treat?

Pursue It

Realize from the get go that there are going to be some days when you’re going to forget to study your Bible, or oversleep, or have an emergency, or just plain old give into temptation to skip it. Take a breath. It’s OK. If there was sin involved, repent and ask God’s forgiveness. If there’s still time left in the day, and you’re able, go ahead and pull your Bible out, even if it’s not your regularly scheduled time. If not, just get back up on that horse tomorrow. God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Prize It

Above all, whether it’s a day when you’ve had a fantastic time in God’s word or a day when you’ve messed up royally, keep your eyes on the prize and see the long term value in spending time in the Scriptures each day. God is using His word to grow you in holiness and make you more Christlike.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.