I'm teaching one of the adult Sunday School classes on Sunday and I'm going to work through this outline on Titus. Titus teaches us how and why we need to combine public and private ministry, in order to teach and proclaim the gospel fully.
This is the Bible study guide for January 29 to February 4, 2012, containing questions for Ephesians 3, Zephaniah 3, and Luke 13:1-9.
Sunday morning's sermon will be from Ephesians 3, and Sunday evening's sermon will be from Luke 13:1-9. Zephaniah 3 will be a supplemental reading for Sunday morning's sermon.
This study contains questions from Ephesians 2, Leviticus 19:1-18, and 1 Peter 1:12-2:13. On Sunday morning, I'll be preaching from Ephesians 2, and I'll be preaching from the other two passages on Sunday night.
_Last year I gave in and bought a Kindle Keyboard. At the time, my main purpose in buying it was to save money. I planned on purchasing nearly everything I read for "leisure" on the Kindle. I was going to continue buying all my reference and ministry books in physical form.
But my thinking on this has changed. The Kindle, because of its e-ink technology, provides an outstanding platform for reading. The eye strain I expected never materialized. I can literally read on the Kindle for hours at a time. And I don't have to worry about the battery--even with the heavy use I put it through, the battery will last for a couple of weeks without needing a charge, longer if I minimize the time I have it connected to wifi or the 3G network.
Because of this, I have transitioned almost all of my book-buying over to my Kindle. This now includes my reference and ministry books. The Kindle is a back-saver in this regard! On a device smaller and lighter than my Thinline ESV Bible, I have, right now:
4 different Bibles
2 different study Bibles (ESV Study Bible and the NET Study Bible)
1 Unabridged Matthew Henry's Commentary
1 commentary on Proverbs
2 commentaries on Ephesians (including Peter O'Brien's in the Pillar series)
2 Biblical studies books (God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment by Hamilton and Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright)
1 preaching book
a number of nonfiction books for general reading
1 novel (Stephen King's 11/22/63)
When I bought the Kindle I also bought a nice faux leather case for it, so it looks nice to hold and carry.
The Kindle has been invaluable for me from a ministry standpoint. I used to have to carry a backpack or briefcase full of books everywhere I went. Now, I take my slim, little Kindle that has everything I need. When I've gotten stuck someplace, I've been able to have my choice of things to read--alternating from the Bible, to a commentary, to a novel. And it's served as a computer on the go--so I can tap into my email or do a quick web search through the 3G or wifi connection.
I highly recommend a Kindle for use in ministry. It does not have to replace your current library nor does it have to replace your future purchase of physical books. But at a minimum, you can stuff it full of Bibles and some reference books. It becomes a portable library that you can have with you at all times, whether in your office, your office-away-from-the-office (aka, the coffee shop!), the hospital during visitations, at home, or on the go.
This is the Bible study guide for January 15-21, 2012, including questions from Ephesians 1, Psalm 8, and Proverbs 1.
_Proverbs is a unique book in the Bible. It is part of the "wisdom writings" in the Old Testament, which is itself a part of the more overlooked third section of the Hebrew Bible, "The Writings." It seems to lack a theological purpose to it, apart from the opening prologue in chapters 1-9. It does not appear to have a unity to it, but seems to be formed from a collection of one-liners, wisdom poems, and collected sayings. There are multiple authors of the book, which leads to the idea that Proverbs is just a book in the Bible that advocates "right choices," and that those right choices lead to wisdom.
But a closer look at Proverbs shows that there is both a unity and a theological center to Proverbs.
Proverbs is composed of three sections. There is a prologue (chapters 1-9), the main body of the book (chapters 10-29), and an epilogue, or closing section (chapters 30-31). The main section is contained of proverbs of Solomon, words and sayings of "the wise," and more proverbs of Solomon which were copied, which means that some scribes maintained proverbs throughout history. This main section is composed mainly of single-sentence reflections or sayings that take a snapshot of life and offer a "wise" way of proceeding or viewing a situation. When most people think of Proverbs, they think of this section, which leads to the idea that Proverbs are just sayings that can help us live better. But they are more than that.
The closing section contains words of Agur and King Lemuel, including a closing poem on the virtues of an industrious woman. These sections are more similar to the opening prologue than to the main body of Proverbs in that they contain longer poems that reflect on the virtue and value of wisdom. It is here that we find the theological purpose of Proverbs, for Agur and Lemuel pick up on themes that were begun in chapters 1-9 (the prologue).
Because many people don't read Proverbs--they just dive into it, thinking it's a loose collection of sayings--they overlook that Proverbs begins with a profound theological statement: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (1:7). Earlier, wisdom and understanding are seen to lead to righteousness, justice, and equity (1:2-3), all attributes of the LORD.
The teaching in Proverbs proceeds as though a father was instructing his son (1:8-10). We could argue that God is the "father" in question, based on the theological intent of the book. But this opening section makes clear that wisdom, both the pursuit and application of it, is a godly thing. It is not a secular thing, as though the book exists only to make us "wiser" in this world. If we read the book and pay careful attention to it, the wisdom we learn will draw us nearer to God himself (note how James 3:13-18 picks up on this theme).
If the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and fools despise wisdom and instruction, we see that the purpose of Proverbs is to teach us that there are two ways to live. One, a godly path that submits to teaching and instruction and gains wisdom for godly living, the other a destructive road that embraces corruption, futility, and ungodliness while living for self. We are either wise or foolish. Our devotion to God, seen in submission to hsi teaching, or the lack thereof, determines this.
This focus on godliness is also seen in the epilogue of the book (chapters 30-31). Agur says "Every word of God proves true" (30:5). The sayings of Agur and Lemuel reinforce the earlier teaching in the book and close it out. Lemuel provides a descripton of how wisdom works in a household, through the example of the wise wife.
Therefore, the main body of Proverbs, chapters 10-29, should not be read in isolation from the rest of the book. Each of the sayings provides a snapshot of a moment in time, of a choice between wisdom and foolishness, of godliness and ungodliness. They are not written only to help us make better choices now, but to become more godly in how we live and make choices. Read Proverbs by actually reading it. Note the connections and the themes that run throughout the book, but never overlook the theological purpose--that this book is provided to us for our reflection upon godliness and wisdom, so we can adjust our lives to submit to the teaching of "the Father" and gain wisdom.
_Our faith can become very self-centered and selfish. We "pick" a church to go to based on whether we like the singing or the style of teaching, or because or friends go there or they have a well-known preacher. We like the benefits of our salvation (eternal life, forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit) but we don't always like the sacrifice that this requires of us. We complain about attending worship; we're too tired to pray; and the Bible is too difficult to read.
But in the Bible our faith is not about us, it's about God. This is especially so in the opening section in Ephesians (1:3-14). There, Paul focuses on the reality of our spiritual experience--and demonstrates that it is rooted in God's grace, for God's glory, not for our own preferences.
Paul lists six "benefits" we receive because of God--God has blessed us, he chose us, he predestined us for adoption as his children; in Christ he redeemed us, he gave us an inheritance, and he sealed us with the promised Holy Spirit. While we receive benefits from this, the purpose is for God's glory to be praised.
God's glory is praised by our proclamation, both in speech and deed. This is the fulfillment of Old Testament promises where Israel was to be the light that drew in all nations to God's glory (Isaiah 49:1-7; 60:1-3). Yet, this fulfillment comes in Christ and carries through to us who are "in him."
We can be self-centered or God-centered, but not both. God's glory needs to be reflected and we can reflect it. In Ephesians, Paul teaches that God's glory can be reflected in our prayers (1:15-23; 3:14-21), in unity (ch 2), in maturity (ch 4) and in our household relationships (5:22-6:9).
What would be different if you changed your focus from self to God? How would that change the way you worship (or even the content of your worship)? How would it change your relationship with others, both in and out of the church, knowing that each relational interaction provided you with an opportunity to reflect and give praise to God's glory?
This is the Bible study guide for the week of January 8-14, 2012. On Sunday I'll preach from Ephesians 1:3-14 on the theme of "God's Glory and Blessing." The questions in the study guide are from Ephesians and 2 Samuel 7:1-17.
_When I transitioned from one church to another, I wanted to leave behind some ideas to help the church in conflict resolution and leadership. It took me quite awhile (over a month) to be ready to write this article. I needed to check my own motives, to put this out for public consumption not for my own benefit or to grind my own axe, but to offer some suggestions to churches in handling high-level conflict (that is, conflict caused by, created by, or within church leadership).
For the right motives, I think churches look past areas of conflict, wanting to see the best in people. But some people are troublemakers, bent on getting into leadership as a way to get their own way, and patterns of previous behavior demonstrate this. In my opinion, people with past histories of divisive behavior need to give an accounting of what they have learned and how they have changed before they ever get appointed to leadership. Leadership in the church should be carefully guarded. After all, leaders are to be overseers who will give an account to the Lord of their oversight of souls (Hebrews 13:17). They are to lead willingly, as examples, not lording it over others. How can one lead with the proper humility, service, and teaching if that person is more concerned with getting their own agenda built in to the church's program? These "leaders" are exposed as the wolves that tear flocks apart (Acts 20:29).
When you, or your church, experience conflict, follow these guidelines to find help:
1. Listen to those you trust and follow up. If a leader or someone else indicates to you that something is wrong, listen to that person, especially if you trust him. In very difficult situations, leaders will not come out with direct accusations. But they may indicate, directly or indirectly, that not everything is as it seems. If this happens, they are looking for help. Follow up and help how you can.
2. When conflict exists, the best thing you can do is be a student of observation. Pay attention to what is happening. Note who is doing the most talking about the problems. Those who talk the most are usually (but not always) the ones who are creating the conflict. The extra talk comes in because they need to firm up their agenda with others and find out who is and is not "on their side."
3. Remember that we all serve God in his kingdom. It is Christ's church, not mine, and not anybody else's. God leads us, and we need to follow him.
4. Most churches have everything they need to move forward. Although many weaker churches have doubts about their ability to self-govern, or of their men to be qualified as elders, they can still hold teachers, preachers, and other leaders accountable to the gospel, to stick to it, to preach and teach it, and to lead by it.
5. Remember that leadership is service towards maturity, not decision-making.
6. Be very slow to appoint to leadership. Observe the "track records" of those who are put up for leadership. Be objective with this, not subjective. If someone has a track record of causing division and church splits in previous congregations, they must be able to give a narrative about why those things happened, what they learned, and how they have changed or what they would do differently. Discuss potential weaknesses with prospective leaders. Real leaders accept blame and responsibility for results and are willing to discuss how they've grown and changed. Fake leaders are not.
This blog is for articles and book reviews. I post my sermons at my Sermons page, where you can listen to sermons online or download them in MP3 format.
Although I work for the Otisville Church of Christ in Otisville, Michigan, this blog represents my own thoughts and does not necessarily correspond to the views and workings of the Otisville Church of Christ.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.