Yes, I’m Giving You Homework!

Perspectives in TitusA migraine Saturday changed my plan to resume the Perspectives In Titus Bible Study today. Maybe that’s  the sovereignty of God giving us time to review the passages we’ve studied so far. You can find most of the studies (in reverse order, I’m sorry to say) by clicking this link. Perhaps spending this coming week going over the epistle will help us remember the context of the passage we’ll study next Monday.

Truthfully, I hadn’t considered the importance of maintaining context or continuity when I decided to take a summer break from the study, nor did it occur to me last week when I decided to start back up again today. Apparently I thought I could plunge right into Titus 2:11-14 without recalling what Paul had written to Titus up to that point. I’d forgotten that we’d need to review the situation Titus faced in ordering the churches of Crete, and how those churches would need to respond to the Cretan culture.

Titus 2:11-14 overflows with wonderful doctrine on God’s grace and His purpose in electing us.  In my September 5 article, Our Teacher: Grace, I used this very passage to demonstrate the relationship between grace and holiness without paying much attention to the rest of the chapter, and I believe I did so without violating its meaning. I love this passage so much that I refer to it daily in my prayer time.

Although this passage can, in a sense,  stand alone, studying it within its larger context next Monday will increase its power. We will see how it connects to the groups Paul addresses in Titus 2:1-10, as well as to the challenges the Cretan Christians had in distinguishing themselves from the false teachers in their region. Finally, we’ll apply its principles to ourselves.

So, dear sisters, let’s use this week to read back over the lessons in this series before we move forward. My migraine Saturday may have prevented me from barging back into the study without proper attention to how Paul got to this marvelous exposition on grace, leaving us unprepared to fully appreciate it. Please take advantage of this opportunity to review our Perspectives In Titus Bible Studies.

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Bluebirds Don’t Speak As Clearly As The Bible Does

Thy Word is a LampI’ve written about the assaults on the sufficiency of Scripture more times than I can count. I’ve majored on this theme because most of the assaults come, not just from mainline liberal churches that reject the Bible’s authority anyway, but also from evangelical churches that claim to believe the Bible as the Word of God.

Increasingly, churches that would theoretically reject Charismatic teaching are embracing the idea of God speaking personally to individuals apart from the Bible. They argue that we need supplementation, especially in making decisions such as whom to marry or what job to take. One friend once reminded me that I never found a Bible verse saying “thou shalt marry John.”

Actually, the expectation that God should speak to me personally about marrying John very much complicated my decision. At one point, I asked for a sign of three bluebirds in one day. At sunset, having only seen two bluebirds outside my window, I felt very despondent. Then I noticed a painting of a third bluebird on my computer’s screensaver! Did that count? Most days, I assured myself it did; often, I struggled with nagging doubts.

Had I superimposed my great desire to marry John on the third bluebird? Should I ask for another sign? If another sign showed that God didn’t want me to marry John, which sign should I follow?

And why didn’t God simply speak to my heart, as I believed He had on other, less consequential, occasions?

Sure, I knew what the Bible said about the type of man I should seek to marry. And obviously, John met those qualifications! He exhibited Biblical attitudes in keeping with God’s commands to husbands, and I could see that he would lead me to obey the Lord in our marriage. Really, it was a no-brainer, with plenty of Scripture confirming that such a marriage would honor and glorify the Lord.

If I had trusted Scripture’s sufficiency as much as I claimed to trust it, I would have saved myself a lot less angst. I might have enjoyed the courtship even more than I did, and I certainly would have displayed a more godly character worthy of a man like John.

It troubles me to see people straining to hear God’s Voice or frantically searching for signs when a simple study of Scripture in context would enable them to make godly decisions without unnecessary struggle. No, you won’t find a verse telling you to take a certain job, marry a certain man or move to a certain town. But you most assuredly will find principles, based on Scripture as a whole, through which the Holy Spirit will guide you toward God’s will.

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

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Saturday Sampler: July 16 — July 22

Critter Sampler 01Too bad Summer White’s Peterson and the Ghosts in the Machine (appearing in Sheologians) didn’t reach my in-box until after I published last week’s Saturday Sample, because Summer raises some extremely interesting angles to the controversy.

Examining one of the more prevalent false dichotomies among evangelicals, Mark McIntyre of Attempts at Honesty presents External versus Internal Focus to remind us that the Great Commission involves more than just evangelism and more than just discipleship.

Speaking of good reminders, Elizabeth Prata cautions us against Lucky Dipping by her post in The End Time. Her warning isn’t particularly novel, but it can’t be repeated too often.

Interestingly, Nikki Campbell of Unified in Truth also directs us toward proper Bible study techniques in the article Rightly Handling the Word of Truth (part 2). The principles laid out can help us in our own understanding of Scripture, and they can also assist us in discerning false teaching. Therefore this post deserves our careful attention.

Regular readers of Saturday Sampler know that One Hired Late In The Day is a blog I love to feature. This week’s article, The narrow gate, looks at the Lord’s claim that salvation excludes many people — including professing Christians who show no fruit of genuine conversion. Jennifer substantiates her points with a good variety of Scripture, making this an essay well  worth your time and attention.

Those of you following the Eugene Peterson fiasco might appreciate Amy Spreeman’s  Eugene Peterson’s error isn’t about gay weddings in Berean Research. I think she gets to the heart of the matter quite effectively.

Michelle Lesley weighs in with The Peterson Predicament and LifeWay’s Peculiar Policies. She raises excellent questions that this Southern Baptist Convention publishing company should have answered years ago.

As women, none of us should serve as the pastors that John Chester directly addresses in his Parking Space 23 article, Church 101. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the principles he puts forth, however. I especially appreciate his thoughts on the purpose of the church.

Am I including Elizabeth Prata’s The Approachableness of Jesus (Reprise) because she mentions John Adams? Maybe a little (I live near Quincy, MA). But seriously, she uses Adams’ struggle with royal protocol to highlight the graciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ to receive us into His presence without  condition. Her post fills me with adoration for the King of kings!

Yes friends, it’s true. I’m really giving you two posts by Michelle Lesley on top of two by Elizabeth Prata this week. Michelle’s Throwback Thursday ~ Persecution in the Pew brings back an article Michelle wrote nearly two years ago about a sad form of persecution that I’ve personally experienced. As we stand for Biblical truth, we should expect pushback — even from professing Christians.

I’m new to Lara d’Entremont’s blog, Renewed in Truth Discipleship, so I can’t yet fully endorse it (I have a sneaking suspicion that I eventually will). Her post, 7 Mistakes You Might Be Making When Studying the Bible, certainly indicates that  she’s worth reading. See if you agree.

Tom at excatholic4christ writes Papal allies accuse American right-wing Catholics and evangelicals of joining together in “ecumenism of hate” to remind us that the Gospel is not about American politics. It’s an interesting read for many reasons.

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Knowing The Real Thing

Counterfeit BibleThe elder, teaching an adult Sunday School class, gave the popular analogy of bank tellers handling real money so often that they can easily spot a counterfeit bill. Similarly, the analogy goes, Christians who spend a lot of time and effort studying Scripture will consequently detect theological error quite readily.

Having heard leaders in the Charismatic church use that same analogy, I wanted to voice my objection. But I wanted to trust this elder. I wanted to trust this new church. Perhaps, I assured myself, the leadership of this church really did know God’s Word better than the leadership of the Charismatic church had. Maybe they couldn’t be deceived so easily. So, despite nagging reservations, I decided to trust that this man had ample discernment because he spent time reading and teaching the Bible.

A few years later, largely due to the influence of that very elder, the church drifted into weak, seeker-sensitive theology. Lately it has also embraced the Social Gospel, and it allows women to hold positions of authority over men. Clearly, all that elder’s Bible knowledge has failed to inoculate him (or that church) against faulty doctrine.

The problem wasn’t a lack of knowing the Word of God, however. Rather, it was that this man, along with other leaders in the church, didn’t apply proper hermeneutics in their study of Sacred Text.

This article isn’t a diatribe against my former church, however. I use it only as an example of why Christians must not suppose that mere familiarity with the Bible protects us against deception. Along with reading it, we need to understand how it fits together.

For instance, we need to see Jeremiah 29:11, not as a promise to give 21st Century Christians a rosy future on earth, but as a word to the Jewish exiles during the Babylonian Captivity. Even in its its immediate context, Jeremiah 29:11 obviously doesn’t speak to present-day Christians, as you can see from this excerpt:

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. ~~Jeremiah 29:10-14 (ESV)

If you read the whole chapter, the prophecy is even less appealing. It’s not something I want to claim as a promise!

Scripture can’t be broken into fragments that we then interpret according to our personal circumstances and preferences. We may read it daily, but if we latch on to isolated verses instead of understanding those verses as they relate to the rest of the Bible, we end up with a distorted theology that can eventually lead to doctrinal error. Conversely, if we use good hermeneutics we can understand what the Holy Spirit intended when He inspired the prophets and apostles to record His Word.

Amassing a collection of go-to Bible verses that you can apply with just a little cutting and stretching may give us the illusion of Bible literacy, but it sure won’t prevent us from accepting counterfeit theology.

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Saturday Sampler: July 2 — July 8

Butterfly SamplerWhat a wonderful way to begin the week! Sunny Shell, in her Abandoned to Christ blog, writes #PsalmSunday: Psalm 48:10-11 as a brief, but powerful, devotional on why we should rejoice over God’s judgments. She gives us good food for thought with this one!

As Americans celebrate Independence Day, Clint Archer’s Heavenites: Our True Citizenship in The Cripplegate puts patriotism in its proper perspective. Loving America has its place, but Christians may want to rethink how closely we align ourselves with this present world.

They say history repeats itself. The Reformation 500 blog demonstrates this principle through its post Jesus Overthrows a Corrupt Priesthood.

Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day consistently produces outstanding blog posts, but Is it normal to feel like I’m sinning more? easily ranks among her best. She deals with a common fear that few Christians dare not ask out loud.

Make time to read Does Abstinence Teaching Really Promote Purity? by Aimee Byrd of Housewife Theologian. She takes the responsibility of sexual purity way beyond external behaviors. Doesn’t that approach remind you of something Jesus would do? Anyway, her angle on teaching purity can apply both to young teens and those of us who have been married for years.

Using the life of Solomon as an example, Jim Elliff of For The Church issues the warning, Don’t Just Tweet Your Proverbs to those of us who are in the latter stages of life. Younger people, however, also need to consider his admonition. Praise God for His faithfulness in bringing this piece to my attention.

John and I enjoy Christian podcasts. Because our disabilities limit our church involvement, we appreciate being able to augment the Sunday sermons our pastor preaches with sound teaching from men like John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, Mike Abendroth and Alistair Begg. Yet we understand that Man (Or Woman) Cannot Live on Podcasts Alone, as Courtney Reissig of The Gospel Coalition Blog helps us see. Unless physical limitations (such as those John and I have) prevent you from active participation in your local church, please don’t depend on podcasts as your primary source of spiritual nourishment.

Providentially, a brief teaching in Biblical Woman offers encouragement to those of us who actually have been relegated to the sidelines. How Do You See the Difficulties in Your Life comments on Philippians 1:12-19 to redirect or perspective on our limitations.

In Hanging on to the Life Ring Leslie A. of Growing 4 Life shows us how to survive the flood of false teaching that engulf present-day evangelicalism. Ladies, please don’t overlook this one!

Scripture-twisting is epidemic among professing Christians, and the 4th of July can bring some examples out of the woodwork. Michelle Lesley demonstrates this problem in her post, Top Ten 4th of July Twisted Scriptures. Dearest sisters in Christ, please remember to read verses in their proper context before you apply them to 21st (or 18th) Century America.

I’ve confessed before that I battle the sin of anger. Tim Challies brings much needed conviction to me with his article, Angered At and Angry With. He approaches the topic from a different perspective than usual, which makes it all the more interesting.

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Perspectives In Titus: Teaching Young Men

Titus 2 6 thru 8

Titus 2:6-8 seems like an inappropriate text for a women’s blog. I’d argue that, although the passage indeed specifically focuses on young men, women certainly can learn from the principles it lays down.

I’ll quote the passage in the context of the verses leading up to it, just to keep everything in proper perspective:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. ~~Titus 2:1-8 (ESV)

Paul has been showing Titus how to minister to various groups that make up a local church, explaining how each group best  demonstrates Christian behavior. For the past two weeks we’ve concentrated on the instructions aimed at older and younger women, but now verse 6 of the text moves our attention to young men.

In contrast to Paul’s instruction that Titus delegate the training of young women to more mature ladies, Paul charges Titus to directly work with young men. As we’ll see momentarily, Titus is specifically told to urge these young men to exercise self-control. Presumably, that term would include controlling sexual lusts (see 2 Timothy 2:22).

Paul’s word “likewise” refers back to the previous three groups.  Paul emphasizes self-control as a contrast to the self-indulgence that marked the Cretan lifestyle. This command, however, especially challenges young adults, who aren’t accustomed to restraining themselves. Fleeing  youthful passions, particularly while living in an environment like Crete, would demonstrate God’s power to transform young men.

Just as young men like Titus would be asking for trouble in counseling young women regarding sexual purity, so he would be the most appropriate person to mentor young men in maintaining self-control in respect to their sexual purity.

Verse 7 slightly shifts the focus from young men in general to one particular young man: Titus himself. Why? My personal opinion is because, since he is a young man at the time of this epistle, Titus could serve as a practical example of how young men ought to   conduct themselves.

The context of this verse leads us to  think that Titus was still a young man at the time Paul wrote this letter, and therefore Titus had to model proper behavior for young men to emulate. Consequently, he was to set an example of performing good works.

He would set this example largely through his conduct as a minister of the Gospel. In his ministry of teaching, Titus would need, first of all, to show integrity. Since Paul elaborates on how to show integrity in the next verse, let’s merely say here that his teaching must be free of any corruption.

By “dignity,” Paul means that Titus should teach in a manner that commands respect. Not only must his doctrine be grounded in truth, but he must deliver it in reverence and seriousness to underscore its importance as the very Word of God. Again, Paul expands on this idea in verse 8, but I want to quickly mention that it makes me think of present-day pastors who resort to gimmicks and theatrics to capture the attention of their “audience” rather than treating the pulpit with dignity.

Verse 8 continues Paul’s instruction to Titus by urging him toward sound speech. In his teaching, Titus would need to speak doctrinally sound words that no one could find fault with. By doing   so, he would silence his critics, proving that their arguments were ridiculous.

Sound speech needed to characterize Titus’ public and private conversations.  This point both reiterates and emphasizes the call to integrity in the previous verse. Barnes comments:

Such as cannot be shown to be weak, or unsound; such that no one could find fault with it, or such as an adversary could not take hold of and blame. This direction would imply purity and seriousness of language, solidity of argument, and truth in the doctrines which he maintained.

Barnes is not alone in his observation; The Believers Bible Commentary adds that sound speech “should  be free from side-issues, doctrinal novelties, fads, crudities, and the like.” As I mentioned earlier, many 21st pastors apparently disregard this call to sobriety in the ministry of God’s Word. Yet Titus, and by extension all representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, bear a responsibility to be faithful to God’s Word.

Paul insists on Titus exhibiting sound speech because of the opponents to the Gospel. He probably thought about the Judaizers in particular, who would be eager to discredit both Titus and Paul. He wanted Titus to ensure that no one could charge them with practicing evil (see 1 Peter 2:11-12).

As Christian women, we can learn from Paul’s instructions to Titus. Even though we don’t teach in mixed congregations, we do teach other women. Therefore, like Titus, we must model integrity, dignity and sound speech that silences the opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ. We represent Him, and consequently our deportment should reflect that fact.

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Does Bible Journaling Mark Good Bible Study?

Journalig BibleThe other day, I came across a blog post about ways to do Bible journaling. Now, the very concept of Bible journaling strikes me as strange to begin with, and seems even stranger when I realize that the term currently refers to coloring and drawing in one’s Bible. The blog post I read featured several enormous photos of a Bible (presumably belonging to the author) almost totally covered with pastel highlights, post-it notes and pink comments written in the margins.

As I looked at photo after photo of the Bible, with all its artistry, my mind went back to a guest preacher who once spoke at the church I belonged to in California. During the early portion of the service, he sat across the aisle and one row up from me, making it easy for me to glimpse the open Bible on his lap.

The Bible was quite well-worn, with pages that had obviously been handled many, many times. Verses were highlighted and underlined, and copious notes filed the margins. I gazed at the man with admiration, thinking, “This guy really knows the Word!”

When he got up to preach, however, he handled Scripture so badly that I left the church in tears. I’d never heard anyone twist God’s Word that severely in my life! He totally misinterpreted the passage, making points exactly opposite to the text in order to promote a heretical agenda that he hoped our church would adopt. For all the markings and notes he’d made in his Bible, his Biblical illiteracy was astounding.

Ladies, a well-worn Bible laden with markings and notes doesn’t necessarily indicate that its owner properly understands correct doctrine. Those brilliantly colored phrases may or may not be understood in their proper context.

I have absolutely nothing against marking one’s Bible. A good, consistent color code can help you in studying, as long as you don’t overdo it. Turning your Bible into a coloring book, however, distracts from serious Bible study.

Do you notice a similarity between the blogger in my opening paragraph and the guest preacher with the open Bible on his lap (during a part of the service when nobody else had their Bible open)? Both gave onlookers an opportunity to admire their evident devotion to God’s Word. Of course, only the Holy Spirit can judge their motives, but I can’t help wondering why they made it so easy for people to see their Bibles.

In pondering this whole subject, I thought of something Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ~~Matthew 6:1-6 (ESV)

Is it possible that this Bible journaling fad is more about showing others how much attention we give our physical Bibles than about learning and obeying the Word of God? It depends, obviously on each individual. Not every woman who marks her Bible does so for the purpose of showing off, and those who don’t practice Bible journaling must be careful not to judge. But, and pay attention here, it’s extremely easy to mark up our Bibles with secret hopes that someone will happen to see those brightly colored highlights and admire our spirituality.

Might I suggest that you have two Bibles? Use one for your private times with the Lord, marking it in whatever way genuinely helps you study and properly understand God’s Word. If your husband and kids happen to see you marking it, okay. But don’t go out of your way to show it to them. Keep it between yourself and the Lord. Take the second Bible to church and Bible Study, marking it very seldom. Your Father Who sees in secret will reward you.

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