From the Archives: Women’s Roles In the Church

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I’m still out spending time with my family for a few days.
I hope you’ll enjoy this selection from the archives.

 

It’s been a while since I finished my Rock Your Role series which examines the main Scriptures often debated in the battle for the biblical role of women in the church. I’m starting to get questions on these topics again, which is great! This is an issue all Christian women need to have a biblical understanding of. So I thought I’d post the links to the articles that answer the questions I’m most commonly asked.

Jill in the Pulpit

“Why can’t women be pastors, teach men, or hold authority over men in the church?”

 

 

Are Female Bloggers Violating Scripture by “Teaching” Men?

“You say that women shouldn’t teach men, but what about men who read your blog? Aren’t you teaching them?”

 

Oh No She Di-int! Priscilla Didn’t Preach, Deborah Didn’t Dominate, and Esther Wasn’t an Egalitarian

“Of course women can preach, because…Esther! Because…Phoebe! Because…the women at Jesus’ tomb!”

 

Rock Your Role FAQs

Can women share the gospel with men? Teach at Christian schools? Speak at co-ed conferences? Answer questions in a co-ed Sunday School class? And more!

 

There are other articles in the Rock Your Role series which you may also enjoy. Just click and start scrolling.

Throwback Thursday ~ Is It Really All Our Fault?

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Originally published July 15, 2016all our fault

“If the church would just _________,
the world would flock to us.”

“The world is in the state it’s in because
the church has fallen down on the job.”

Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing and reading statements like these more and more frequently. But are they true? Is the world really in such sad shape as a result of the failings of the church?

Yes!…and…no.

It is absolutely true that the visible church – everything that wears the label “church” or “Christian,” whether or not it’s biblical Christianity – has a lot to be ashamed of. Westboro. TBN. Homosexual church leaders and members. Pastors caught in adultery. Child molestation scandals. Female “pastors.” All manner of demonic behavior masquerading as “worship,” blasphemously attributed to the “Holy Spirit.”

Even churches with an orthodox statement of faith – which, to onlookers, seem to be doing fine, biblically – water down the gospel in the name of being seeker sensitive, use materials produced by false teachers, invite false teachers to speak at their conferences, fail to evangelize, place women in unbiblical positions of leadership, have pastors and teachers whose main form of teaching is eisegesis and pandering to felt needs, fail to provide for the needs of their members and their surrounding community, focus on fun and silliness in their youth and children’s ministries instead of Scripture and holiness, allow members to gossip, backbite, and exercise selfishness, fail to practice church discipline, make their worship services into irreverent entertainment-fests, have “pastors” who are little more than stand up comedians, and have largely biblically ignorant congregations.

Some churches are spiritually healthier than others, but nobody’s getting out of this one with clean hands. Even the healthiest church is doing something wrong in some little nook or cranny. And as Christ’s bride, it is incumbent upon us, whenever we discover those nooks and crannies, to repent, set things right, and do things biblically as we move forward.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25b-27

That’s Christ’s vision of the church. A vision all churches fall woefully short of. And when the church fails in any area, it does contribute to the downhill slide of the world, because it is not being the city on the hill Christ wants it to be, and it is producing individual Christians (or false converts) who aren’t being the salt and light Christ wants them to be.

But is it fair to lay all the world’s woes and sinfulness at the doorstep of the church? Is it really true that if we would just clean up our act in this area or on that issue that we’d magically see an influx of pagans begging, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

No, it isn’t.

The world isn’t steeped in sin because of the failings of the church. The world is steeped in sin because of the Fall.

Look back over history. The world was vicious and depraved long before the church ever came on the scene. And, for that matter, long before God set apart and established Israel as His chosen people. (Hello? The ante-diluvian world? Sodom and Gomorrah? Ancient Egypt? Baal and Molech worship?)

Examine any era in the last two millenia when you think the church was doing a better job than it is now and take a look at the society that church was situated in. The New Testament church? It was surrounded by a world of war, oppression, torture, debauchery, sexual deviance, slavery, misogyny, poverty, famine, and child abuse.

The head of the church, Jesus Christ, spent over thirty years physically present on this earth. We know He conducted His ministry perfectly. Not once did He fail to preach the gospel or provide for people’s needs or fall short in any other way. He even went so far as to lay His life down for the sin of the world. And what impact did that have on His immediate society? Did all the Pharisees repent and temple worship was restored to godliness? No. Did Rome stop ruling the world with an iron fist? No. Did acts of sedition and perversion and persecution suddenly disappear? No. In fact, some of those things actually got worse during and after Jesus’ time.

Just like He prophesied.

You see, Jesus didn’t say, “Be more like Me and the world will come running,” or “The church can solve the ills of the world.” He said:

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15:19

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. 2 Timothy 3:12-13

The more the church and individual Christians look and act like Christ, the more world will hate, persecute, and ostracize us.

The church is not going to fix all the evils of society. And it’s not fair to lay that burden of responsibility – one that even Jesus’ earthly ministry didn’t accomplish – on believers who genuinely love their Savior and want to serve Him. Holding out the stick and carrot of a utopian world to the church – if only we’ll get our act together – does nothing but breed hopelessness, despair, and futility in the pews.

Does the church have a lot of repenting to do? Yes. Are there right hands we need to chop off and right eyes we need to gouge out in order to facilitate obedience to Christ? You bet. Should we be exponentially more proactive and passionate about preaching the gospel and meeting the needs of a lost and dying world? Absolutely.

But we do not do those things because we’re failing the world. We do those things out of love for and faithfulness to Christ. Christ is our goal, not a changed world. Christ is the prize we’re to fix our eyes on, not a society that behaves itself. Christ is the finish line we press toward, not domestic tranquility and morality.

Christ.

Because if it’s the church’s job to set the world right, we’re doomed. The world sins because the world is made up of sinners. And the world will continue to sin – even if every church on the planet suddenly becomes perfect – because the world is made up of sinners. But if the church’s highest attainment is love for Christ, faithfulness to Christ, and obedience to Christ, then we are successful in God’s eyes regardless of what the world around us looks like.

Let’s be faithful and trust God to handle changing the world.

Mark: Scripture Memory Lesson

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No new lesson in Mark today since I’m taking a few days off, but I did want to share a quick lesson on Scripture memory with you.

A few months ago, my pastor started preaching through the book of Romans, and I decided I would try something: memorize one verse out of each chapter as he preached through it. He just finished chapter 7, so I have memorized Romans 1:18, 2:4, 3:20, 4:5, 6:22, and 7:6. It has really helped me participate better in worship and internalize the truths of Romans more.

Would you like to try something like that with our Mark study? This week would be a good week to start. We just finished chapter 5, so there will be a little catching up to do, but if you start today and practice your verses every day, you will probably have a pretty good grip on them by the time we get to our lesson on chapter 6.

You can choose whichever verses you like from Mark 1-5- maybe a verse that helps you remember a particular biblical principle, or one that brings you joy or helps you avoid a certain sin. Or you might like to try these verses I’ve selected:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 1:14-15

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17

For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:35

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Mark 4:41

And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Mark 5:19

Whether you memorize these verses from Mark, other verses from Mark, or other verses from other books, I encourage you to memorize. Take as much time as you need, use whatever memory tricks work for you, but get that Word hidden in your heart and meditate on it day and night.

Playing Hooky Again

Hey Everybody-

My husband and I want to take a few days off and do some fun stuff with our kids.

So we’re gonna! :0)

The blog schedule for the remainder of this week will be slightly modified. No new lesson in our Mark study tomorrow, and Friday’s article will be a re-run from the archives. Things should be back to normal next week. I think. Unless we find more fun stuff to do.

See you soon!

The Mailbag: What Is the Verse Mapping Method of Bible Study?

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What is the “verse mapping” method of Bible study? Do you recommend it? A friend was asking about it and she is a big follower of Proverbs 31 Ministries, which was a red flag for me.

This is an excellent question, because there are lots of different Bible study methods out there, some good, some not. And you want to make sure you’re using a method that will help you correctly understand the text so you can grow in your faith.

I had never heard of verse mapping either, so I did what I usually do when I’ve never heard of something but want to know what it is- I Googled it. And several red flags popped up for me too.

The first hit I got was this article written by someone who thinks Beth Moore is an exemplary Bible teacher and that The Message is a reliable translation. She linked to an article on verse mapping at Proverbs 31, whose author says we need to “listen to God’s voice“. The Proverbs 31 article linked to another blogger – “the one who taught us how to verse map” – who recommended closing your eyes, letting your Bible fall open and pointing to a random verse as one way to choose a verse to map.

The rest of the first two pages of search results all seemed to be from Christian women’s blogs, none of whom I was familiar with. That’s not to say there’s necessarily anything wrong with those women or their blogs, I’m just saying I didn’t see any well known, doctrinally sound ministries recommending verse mapping in the most popular Google results.

I get the impression from these articles that verse mapping methodology can be a bit fluid. The first blogger used a journal and made copious notes (her method appeared to me to be more akin to inductive Bible study). The other two used an index card and wrote very few notes. So it would seem there’s no one set way to do verse mapping.

Separating the method itself away from the taint of false teachers, some of the recommended techniques in verse mapping are solid and could be very helpful, such as using commentaries, looking words up in the original Greek or Hebrew, writing down what is happening in the verse, and looking at the immediate context of the verse. These are all good principles of biblical hermeneutics, and if you use them as part of a systematic study of a book of the Bible or as part of a study on a biblical topic, your understanding of God’s word will be greatly aided.

The problem is, those good techniques are mixed in with some bad techniques, so you have to be discerning enough to tell which is which. And, chances are, if you’re discerning enough to do that, you’re probably a good student of the Bible who’s already using the good techniques of verse mapping, so you don’t really need it.

The bad techniques?

1. Choosing random verses to dissect
There’s more to the context of a verse than just the couple of verses that immediately precede and follow it. There’s how the verse fits into its chapter, book, testament, and the overall narrative of Scripture. If you skip through Scripture picking out a verse here and a verse there to analyze you’re going to misunderstand those verses because you’re not going to know the larger context they fit into in their own immediate story and the story arc of redemption. Can you imagine studying any other piece of literature – a Shakespearean sonnet, the Declaration of Independence, a medical journal article – this way, picking out a random sentence or two here and there? Of course not. Then why would we study the Bible this way?

2. Personalizing the verse
One of the techniques verse mapping recommends is to cross out all general referents (you, they, we, etc.) and replace them with your own name. Do not do this.

First and foremost this exhibits utter disdain for the God of the universe who wrote the Bible. If He wanted your name to be in Scripture, it would already be there. You don’t get to change, even temporarily, what He wrote, and to think it’s OK to do so is arrogant and irreverent. These are the very words of God Himself- do you really dare to change them?

Second, it’s an extremely self-centered way to look at Scripture. The Bible isn’t about you and it wasn’t written to you. When those words were penned, there were real, live people – just as important as you – on the other end, and none of them were you because you hadn’t been born yet.

Third, doing this will almost certainly give you a wrong understanding of the verse. “You” doesn’t always mean you personally, Buttercup. Sometimes “you” means Israel. Sometimes “you” means the church. Sometimes “you” means Amos or Cain or Judas or Philemon. Sometimes “you” means God. Sometimes “you” even means Satan. And sticking your name in for one of these “you’s” is going to lead you away from a correct understanding of Scripture, not toward it.

3. Focus on anything that jumps out at you
Again, this is a very self-centered way to look at Scripture. Just because something jumps out at you doesn’t mean it’s the main point of the verse or that it has significant spiritual import. Certainly, if there’s a word in the verse that you don’t understand you should look it up. Or, if you find some concept in the verse interesting, go ahead and search out the cross-references for clarity. But don’t assume that word you’ve looked up or that concept you find interesting is the meaning of the verse just because it happened to catch your attention. When we study the Bible, we search for what God meant by that verse.

4. Find verses that minister to you
Now I ask you, if you follow that guideline, how often are you going to pick verses out of Leviticus that have nothing to do with your life today? When will you pick verses that step on your toes and convict you of sin? Will you ever examine hard verses that take a lot of historical and cultural understanding? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this is a self-centered way to look at Scripture. Yes, the Bible can bring us comfort and reassurance, but the Bible isn’t a bottle of aspirin. You don’t just pop a couple of verses whenever you have a headache. The Bible isn’t there to minister to you. It’s there to equip you to minister to God, the church, your family, the lost. There’s a reason God wants pastors to preach the whole counsel of God – we need all of God’s word, even the parts that don’t “minister” to us.

In conclusion, I would not recommend verse mapping as a whole the way it is presented in the aforementioned articles, but some of the individual techniques I noted can be helpful as part of your regular, systematic study of Scripture.

If you need a little help learning how to study your Bible using good study habits, click the Bible Studies tab at the top of this page.


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.

God’s Good Purposes in Suffering

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In my previous article True or False: Is Your Theology of Suffering Biblical? we examined some unbiblical ideas and approaches Christians often have toward suffering. Why is it important to have a biblical view of suffering? Because suffering is painful enough without piling on things like, “God is punishing me,” or “This wouldn’t be happening if I just had more faith,” that aren’t even true. The biblical view of suffering frees you from from the additional agony of inappropriate guilt, the mindset that God is harsh or unloving, and the burden of striving to appease a God who’s not asking you to. A biblical view of suffering sets you free to rest in Christ and trust Him.

God’s purposes toward you, His child, are always good, even when He permits difficult things into your life. Let’s think about Romans 8:28 for just a second:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It doesn’t say all things are good. It says that God uses all circumstances for good for His people – even the difficult ones – because He is good and His plans and goals are good.

Even Joseph saw this, way back in Genesis. After everything his brothers put him through, he said,

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good,

As parents, sometimes we give our child ice cream to eat and sometimes we give him Brussels sprouts. Do we give ice cream because we love him and Brussels sprouts because we hate him? No. Both are done out of love, the ice cream because it brings him joy, and the Brussels sprouts because it has the nutrients he needs to be strong and healthy. It would not be loving for a parent to give only ice cream or only Brussels sprouts. In the same way, it would not be loving for God to give us only blessings or only difficult times. Everything God does in our lives, He does for His glory and our good.

So what are some of God’s good purposes in our suffering?

1. To bring glory to God
We touched on Job’s story in the previous article and saw how his suffering glorified God. Another great passage that talks about God being glorified through suffering is John 9:1-3:

As he [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

If you thought suffering was God’s punishment for sin, you’re in good company- the disciples thought so, too! But Jesus was about to do something amazing in this guy’s life that would showcase God’s glory, and it would not have happened had he not suffered.

2. Suffering can be a witness to the lost
When we suffer without forsaking Christ and trust Him to carry us through it, it’s a testimony to others – especially lost people – that God is faithful and worthy of
their faith and trust. Your suffering might open the door to sharing the gospel with someone.

3. The logical consequences of sin
In the previous article, we dealt with the topic of suffering we “deserve,” and how, even though it’s painful, it’s easier to come to grips with that kind of suffering. That’s because we’re made in the image of God, and one of God’s attributes that is reflected in us is justice. We have this innate sense of wanting to see justice done. And when we, or anyone else, suffer the natural consequences of our sin, that points to God being a just God.
We tend to lump all suffering into the one basket of “that’s unfair!” but this is the kind of suffering that is just.

4. Discipline

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Revelation 3:19

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
   nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
   and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:5-11

When we stray off into a pattern of sin, God can use suffering (often the natural consequences of our sin) to correct us and point us back to the Christlike direction we ought to be heading. He does that because He loves us.

5. Suffering can teach us humility and dependence on God
“Independence” is pretty much a motto for us here in the United States. Independence from England, rugged individualism, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps…Guess what? God doesn’t want you to be independent. He wants you to be
dependent- on Him. And nothing can grow that dependence and humility like suffering. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

6. Suffering can grow us in spiritual strength and maturity
Romans 3:3-4 says:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

Endurance, character, hope. These are all aspects of Christian character that God wants to build in each of us, and even though we wish He would just hit us on the head with a magic wand and instantly give us these things, that’s not the way He does it. He often produces these things in us by way of suffering.

7. Experiencing suffering gives us compassion for others, and equips us to help them

[God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
2 Corinthians 1:4

God doesn’t do anything, including putting you through suffering, for no good reason. It could be to glorify Him. It could be to do something in you. Or, it could be to help someone else (or all three). God never wastes an experience in your life. If you’ve been through something, God can use that “been there, done that” experience to equip you to minister to someone else who’s going through the same thing.

8. Suffering can cause the lost to cry out to God for salvation
Remember the parable of the prodigal son? Sadly it’s a common tale. Some people basically have to hit rock bottom in their lives before they finally give it up and surrender to Christ, just like the prodigal son.

And how about the story of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood? Sometimes life is great. You don’t need Jesus, you’re doing life just fine on your own…until something devastating happens that you can’t handle, and you get desperate. Mark 5:26-28 tells us she

had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”

She was desperate. And God can use desperation and suffering to turn the heart of a lost person to Himself for salvation.

 

God is a good God, and His purposes in our suffering are always good. So the next time you’re suffering, think of those 8‘s in Romans 8:28, and remember these 8 good purposes God has for your pain, purposes that bring Him glory, work out His good plans, grow us in good ways, and enable us to do good to others.

Throwback Thursday ~ Prideful and Prejudiced: Racism, Diversity, and Southern Baptists

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Originally published April 1, 2016prideful prejudiced

 

Racism. The word practically emits the hum of electrical voltage. No decent person wants to be accused of being a racist, and no one wants to be mistreated on the basis of race. If there’s a more powerful word in the American vernacular right now, I’m not sure what it is.

Racism isn’t something I normally think about or have to deal with on a daily basis even though it would seem to be swirling all around me here in the Deep South. I’m white. The majority of my friends are white. Either I don’t know anyone who’s racist or those who are racist are wise enough, polite enough, or ashamed enough to keep it to themselves. But despite the fact that I don’t have much one on one experience with it, race is an issue that gets a lot of attention, and the main place I’m encountering racial issues of late is in my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.

Whether you see it as “too little, too late,” or “it’s about time,” the upper echelons of the SBC have been talking a good game (and, in many instances, making progress) about diversity for the last couple of decades. It started in 1995 with the Resolution On Racial Reconciliation, in which the SBC confessed, apologized for, and sought forgiveness for past involvement with and support of slavery, racism, segregation, and other civil rights issues. Next came the task force that studied changing the name of the SBC to “Great Commission Baptists” due to the negative perceptions and racial implications of the word “Southern.” This was followed by the election of Fred Luter, the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Fast forward to 2016. So far this year, three well-known pastors have declared their candidacy for president of the SBC, and each has indicated that diversity is an issue he will give attention to.

J.D. Greear: “I want to see minority leaders take places of real prominence in the SBC, such that diversity might become a hallmark of our denomination.”

Steve Gaines: At Bellevue, we don’t just talk about racial reconciliation – we actually experience it and live in it as a reality. It works in our church because we focus on Jesus-centered racial reconciliation.

David Crosby (who will be nominated by Fred Luter): I hope to make [diversity] a matter of consideration from the very first as we seek to structure in the present for a future gospel strategy that is ever wider in its reach.

OK, great. More people of diverse racial backgrounds appointed to executive offices in the SBC. More books and resources about diversity. More seminars, conferences, panel discussions, and breakout sessions about race. Super. All of those things are wonderful and well intentioned, and will hopefully have some sort of positive impact at the administrative level.

But I really don’t think it’s going to make much of a dent in the actual problem.

I have a friend whose seminary graduate husband has been searching for a senior pastor position in an SBC church for about a year now. He’s a great guy who loves God’s people and rightly handles God’s word. And he’s been turned down by church after church. Why? I’m sure the churches who have rejected him would list a variety of factors, but one of the reasons is that he’s black and his wife is white.

Several years ago, my husband was on staff at an SBC church that was located across the street from a lower income housing project inhabited mostly by black, single parent families. The vast majority of our members were retired and I was a stay at home mom. We had a lot of people with a lot of free time on their hands. I suggested we start an after school tutoring program for the kids who lived in the housing project to minister to and reach out to our neighbors. The idea was quickly dismissed by a vocal few because “we don’t want those people in our church.”

That’s where real racism lives in the SBC, not at the national, upper management level, but in the hearts of some of our individual church members.

  • Church members who excuse their sin by saying, “Well, that’s just the way I was raised,” or “I’m too old to change.”
  • Deacons, elders, and search committees who – instead of dealing with sin in the camp – make provision for the flesh of their churches by quietly pushing aside the resumes of minority pastors because they don’t want to deal with the hassle of racist congregants making a stink or risk losing the money they contribute.
  • Churches who sell their buildings and move to a whiter part of town when the surrounding neighborhood “goes black.”
  • Christians whose offerings go around the world to share the gospel with people of all colors but who won’t go across the sanctuary to share a pew with people of another race.

Racism is an issue of the heart. It’s sin.

And sin can’t be solved by appointments based on skin color or some sort of “trickle down” diversity. It can only be solved by individuals repenting before a holy God, receiving His forgiveness, and growing in Christlikeness.

God’s way in the body of Christ is not “top down,” with administrators creating programs, holding meetings and conferences, and strategically moving people into various positions like pawns on a chess board. God’s way is “bottom up,” with local pastors preaching the truth of God’s word to their people and calling them to repent. It begins with Christ working in people’s hearts, one by one, convicting them of their arrogance and self-righteousness, their pride and their prejudice, their failure to see others through God’s eyes, and their failure to love one another the way God has commanded.

1 pet 1 22

The solution to racism and diversity in the SBC?
It’s right there in black and white.

Mark: Lesson 7

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Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Mark 5:

They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

21 And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, 26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’ 32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.


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. Briefly review lesson 6 (link above). Whereas Mark 4 was largely made up of parables, which aspect of Jesus’ ministry does Mark 5 showcase? If you were to outline this chapter, what the are three major natural divisions you could make?

2. Describe, as much as possible, the “lead characters” in each of the healing miracles in Mark 5: the demon possessed man, Jairus, and the woman with the issue of blood. Compare and contrast their stations in life and how Jewish society might have viewed each person: ceremonially clean or unclean, man or woman, high society or dregs of society, wealthy or poor, much faith or no faith, deserving of a miracle or undeserving? Did Jesus make these same distinctions among people?

3. What was the one thing all three of these people had in common (notice the words “begged”, “implored”, etc. throughout the chapter)? What is the one thing all people have in common today? How does Jesus not showing partiality in this chapter reflect that God does not show partiality with regard to sin and salvation? Why would this have been an important principle of the gospel for both Jews and Mark’s Gentile audience to grasp and embrace?

4. Examine the story of the demoniac (1-20). List the things the demons did to the man and the effects they had on his body and his behavior. (3-5,7,15) What does this tell us about the power of Satan? What do verses 6,7,10,12,13, and the words “adjure” (beg or implore), “begged” and “permission” tell us about Jesus’ authority over demons? Are the demons aware of Jesus’ authority over them? Why were the people “afraid” (15) and begged Jesus to leave (17)? They had seen the power Satan had over the man. What did it tell them about the power, authority, and deity of Jesus when He was able to cast the demons out in such a remarkable (13) way? What would Christ’s love and compassion for someone the Jews would have considered cursed and irreparably unclean have said to the Gentiles (whom the Jews viewed similarly) about His love and compassion for them? Compare the impact for Christ the man was able to have on his community (19-20) versus the impact he would have had on them had Jesus allowed him to accompany Him.

5. Review your descriptions (from #2) of Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood. What impact might it have made on those following Jesus to see that He would stop and care for a mere woman – an unclean one at that – when the daughter of an important man – a synagogue official – was on the verge of death?

6. Why did Jesus ask who had touched Him? (30) Was it because He didn’t know or was it to give the woman an opportunity to confess her faith in Him? (30-34)

7. Did the news of the death of Jairus’ daughter come before or after Jesus healed the woman? (35) Which was more urgent, the woman’s illness or the daughter’s impending death? Why didn’t Jesus make the woman wait and deal with her after healing Jairus’ daughter? Compare the raising of Jairus’ daughter to the raising of Lazarus. What similarities or differences do you see in the circumstances, sequence of events, the impact on witnesses, and the consequences?

8. Both the demoniac (20) and the woman with the issue of blood (33) publicly proclaimed what Christ had done for them. Why did Jesus tell Jairus (43) not to tell about Jesus healing his daughter? (21,24,31) (Hint: Consider where {1,20} the healings took place and whether they were public {14,16,17/21,24,30,31} or private {37,40} events.) Are there times when we should keep private something God has done in our lives?

9. The story of the demoniac demonstrates Jesus’ power over _____. The story of the woman with the issue of blood demonstrates Jesus’ power over _____. The story of Jairus’ daughter demonstrates Jesus’ power over_____. How does Jesus’ demonstration of power in these three areas help make the case for His deity and Messiahship? How do these displays of His power and authority bolster or give credibility to His teaching?


Homework

In verse 19, Jesus told the former demoniac, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 

We often make small talk or discuss trivial things with our friends. This week, look for an opportunity to share what Christ has done for you with your friends. Maybe there’s a lost friend you need to share the gospel and “how He has had mercy on you” with. When you meet with Christian friends, be sure to encourage one another by sharing “how much the Lord has done for you” – what you’re learning as you study His word, things you’re thankful to Him for, how He has provided or worked in a situation, and so on.

Ever Wondered About Old Testament Polygamy?

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Have you ever wondered why so many of the “good guys” of the faith – like Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon – had multiple wives, but today, Christians consider polygamy to be a sin? I was wondering about that recently, so I asked my friend, Pastor Gabe Hughes of When We Understand the Text (WWUTT), and he was kind enough to answer my question on his podcast. WWUTT is a ministry I highly recommend, from Gabe’s daily Bible study podcast (also available on iTunes) to WWUTT videos to Pastor Gabe’s blog. Be sure to check it out!

Listen here, starting at the 10:30 mark.
(Or, do yourself a favor and listen to the whole episode!)

Here’s the transcript of my question and Gabe’s answer:

Michelle:
We know from Gen. 2:18-25 that God’s plan for marriage is one man/one woman. It would seem that this concept is transcendent, or timeless, since God made this pronouncement in the Garden prior to the giving of the Law.

Genesis 2:24 sounds like imperative language. Is it a command, in that, taking multiple wives is a sin? If so, were men like Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon sinning by having more than one wife? If they were sinning, why don’t we ever see God calling them to repentance for the act of polygamy? (the act itself, not just its consequences- Deut. 17:17, 1 Kings 11:3-4)

Could 2 Samuel 12:8 be understood as God approving of polygamy?

Do Deut. 17:17 and 1 Tim. 3:2,12/Titus 1:6 allow for the idea that polygamy is not OK for those in leadership positions, but is OK for non-leaders?

If God did not consider polygamy to be a sin in the OT, but does consider it to be a sin in the NT (if that’s a correct way of viewing it), how does that fit with His immutability (Num. 23:19/Heb. 13:8)?

Gabe:
We tend to lump polygamy in with sexual immorality, but the Bible doesn’t. When you go through lists of sins that will keep someone from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, etc.), notice that polygamy is never listed. That’s because sexual immorality is any sexual activity outside of the covenant of marriage, and polygamy is still sex within a marriage. So it is not in the same category as sexual immorality. It’s still sin because it’s against the law of God. It’s just not as grave a sin.

Polygamy is never directly confronted in the Old or New Testament, except to say that marriage is to be between one husband and one wife until death (Matthew 19:5, 1 Corinthians 7:39, 1 Timothy 3:2, etc.). In the requirements for an overseer of the church, the pastor or the elder is to be a husband of one wife. He is a mature Christian, and is to be an example for the saints under his care. Therefore, we know this is what Christ expects of his followers: for those who are married, it is to be one man and one woman for life.

So why is polygamy never directly confronted, in the Old Testament or New? This is conjecture on my part, but I believe the reason is so no one would be led to believe they need to divorce all their wives but their first. In Bible times (both Old and New), a woman who had sex — whether she had been married and divorced, or even raped and forced into sex against her will — was considered no good (hence the laws in Deuteronomy 22). Had a woman who was wife number 3 in a marriage been divorced because her husband had an attack of conscience, she would be forced into a situation that would leave her destitute, resulting in either slavery or prostitution (consider 2 Samuel 13:20).

Now, despite the fact that we often single out characters like Abraham and Jacob, David and Solomon, polygamy was not a common practice (and polyamory was practically non-existent). If it was practiced at all, it was among the rich. And it was either a sign of wealth, or it was considered a benevolent act. For example, David married Abigail when her bonehead of a husband died. Abigail would not have inherited Nabal’s household, as we think of in an American context — she would either have gone to live with family or become destitute. David took her as his wife to show appreciation for her kindness. In the case of Solomon, his wives were his possession, and his interests were divided between the God of his father and the gods of his pagan wives (as in 1 Timothy 6:

In Malachi’s rebuke against Israel, he said, “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless” (Malachi 2:16). For those Israelites who had married pagan wives, they broke the law of God, but they weren’t to divorce their wives. Likewise, those who had taken multiple wives had broken the law of God, but weren’t to divorce their extra wives. Rather, they needed to remain faithful to their covenant vow, and teach their children what God intended marriage to be so not to repeat the sins of their fathers.

In countries today where polygamy is practiced, missionaries tell these husbands not to divorce their wives, lest their wives become destitute and their children fatherless. But they should teach their children that when they grow up and get married, they are to only have one spouse. The Bible explicitly says how God designed a marriage is to be, and that is sufficient.

The Mailbag: Did Jesus Really Teach Karen Ehman’s 3 Step Life Plan?

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Have you read Karen Ehman’s new book? She takes Matthew 22:36-40 and says this:

Jesus asserts that the entire teaching of God-all the law and the prophets – hinge upon these commands which can be summed up in this 3 step life plan:
1. Love God
2. Love others
3. Love yourself

Is this a biblical way of looking at this passage?

It’s great that you’re being a good Berean and examining this teaching (as we should with all teaching) “to see if these things [are] so.”

I’ve never heard of Karen Ehman before and haven’t read any of her books. The quote above is a very brief excerpt and – in the same way we don’t rip Bible verses out of context and try to interpret them – I’m hesitant to try to extract deep meaning from it without a broader grasp of what she’s trying to teach (i.e. more context), so I’ll be limiting myself to the quote you’ve sent and not trying to speculate on her theology in general.

However, there are a few problems with the quote itself that could be as minor as sloppy wording that needs cleaning up or as major as false doctrine. Without more context I just can’t tell.

1. To say that “the entire teaching of God” equals “all the law and the prophets” isn’t too problematic if you’re a first century Jew, but it’s going to be confusing to the 21st century reader. At the moment in history when Jesus spoke this passage, all the law and the prophets was the entire written teaching of God. But remember, Jesus, at this point in Matthew, is nearing the end of His earthly ministry. He has been teaching for about three years, so that’s three years’ worth of God’s teaching that hasn’t been written down yet- the gospels.

And what was Jesus teaching during those three years- keep the commandments? No. He was introducing the new covenant: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) If you’re going to use a phrase like “the entire teaching of God” for New Testament Christians, you really need to be talking about Christ and the gospel, which will include all of the New Testament as well as the Old. Jesus did not teach a three step life plan of commandment-keeping, He taught that all of the Old Testament points to, and is fulfilled in, Christ and the gospel.

2. As I mentioned, context is indispensible when it comes to understanding Scripture. I don’t know if this quote was lifted out of a chapter in which Karen is exegeting the entirety of Matthew 22 (in which case the quote wouldn’t be completely inaccurate) or if she is making her own point about Christians following this “three step life plan” and flying in verses 36-40 to try to support it. If it’s the latter, she has taken these verses out of context and incorrectly interpreted and applied them.

If you back up and read 21:45-22:46, looking particularly at 21:45, 22:15, 18, 23, 34-35, 41, 46, it’s easy to see that most of the things Jesus is saying here are in direct response to (or at least within earshot of) the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees, who are asking Him questions- not because they’re genuinely trying to learn and looking for a life plan to follow, but because they’re trying to trap Him and find some grounds for discrediting or arresting Him. If Karen had at least included verses 34-35 in her quote (and she may have addressed these verses outside of this quote, I just don’t know), this would have been much clearer.

Jesus is not saying – either to the Pharisees He was talking to then or to us now – “Here are the three guidelines by which I want you to live your life.” They’re asking Him a question on a point of Old Testament law and He’s answering them according to Old Testament law. They weren’t sincerely asking Jesus how He wanted them to live, and He knew that. And that’s probably the reason He answered briefly and didn’t continue teaching them. He knew they weren’t interested in believing in and following Him- they were out to get Him. Why give what is holy to dogs or cast His pearls before swine, right?

3. We need to understand that the commands Jesus refers to in this passage are just that: commands. Old Testament law. Christians are neither saved nor do we grow in Christ (sanctification) by striving to keep Old Testament law. Galatians 3 is very clear about this:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

As Christians our singular focus is to love Christ. That’s the engine that pulls the train. Obedience to commands, growth in holiness, evangelism, fruit, faith, knowledge of God’s word, all of those things are the train cars that follow, and are propelled by, the engine. When we make obeying commands (especially Old Testament commands) our primary focus, we’ve got things backwards. The caboose is trying to pull the engine. Christians are led by the gospel, not Old Testament commands.

4. The most glaring problem with this quote, and one that no additional context can justify, is number 3: “Love yourself.” You will search long and hard, and you will not find a single verse of Scripture that tells us to love ourselves. This passage of Matthew doesn’t teach that, nor does any other book of the Bible.

Want to know why?

Because man’s entire problem – the essence of what separates us from God – is that we already love ourselves too much. And the solution to that problem is to stop loving ourselves, die to self, kick self off the throne, and love Jesus supremely instead.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.
2 Timothy 3:1-8

Lots of people look at “love your neighbor as yourself” and think it means, “You can’t love your neighbor unless you first know how to love yourself.” Uh uh. That’s not what that verse means, and it’s a very self-centered, rather than Christ-centered, way to read it. Jesus – who knows the hearts of men, who said that those hearts are wicked and deceitful – would never tell us we need to love ourselves more. His point was that we are by nature already so self-centered, self-focused, and selfish that we need to put self aside and love and prioritize others that much instead.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Luke 9:23

“Love yourself” is the antithesis of the gospel.

 

As I said, this is a very brief quote, and I haven’t read the book, so I’m hoping what Karen is saying here is just an innocent vocabulary fumble or that, perhaps, I’ve misunderstood her point due to lack of context.

However, once I finished writing my answer, I did a quick Google search in hopes of finding out more about Karen and gaining some insight as to where she’s coming from. Unfortunately, I found out that Karen works for Proverbs 31 Ministries as a speaker, “the Speaker Track Director of the Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference and a teaching staff member of their writers’ training site COMPEL.”

As you may already know, Proverbs 31 is the ministry of Lysa TerKeurst who is a false teacher¹. Because Scripture tells us that we’re not to partner with false teachers, because partnering with a false teacher demonstrates a lack of discernment and either disobedience to, or a failure to understand, Scripture, and because of what, at best, seems to be a misunderstanding of Scripture in the quote cited here, I would recommend that you not follow or receive teaching from Karen Ehman.


¹If you are considering commenting or sending me an e-mail objecting to the fact that I warn against false teachers, please click here and read this article first. Your objection is most likely answered here. I won’t be publishing comments or answering emails that are answered by this article.


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.