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.
Yesterday I read the below quote in a neat little book called Words to Winners of Souls
by Horatius Bonar. An older book, but still very valuable, as he calls the minister to true conversion and an accurate understanding of his job—not to deliver sermons and go on the occasional visit, but to work diligently in every way to convert people to God, and so to save them."To deliver sermons on each returning Lord's Day, to administer the Lord's Supper statedly, to pay an occasional visit to those who request it, to attend religious meetings—this, we fear, sums up the ministerial life of multitudes who are, by profession, overseers of the flock of Christ. An incumbency of thirty, forty or fifty years often yields no more than this. So many sermons, so many baptisms, so many sacraments, so many visits, so many meetings of various kinds—these are all the pastoral annals, the parish records, the ALL of a lifetime's ministry to many! Of SOULS that have been saved, such a record could make no mention."Challenging. I pray that after 30–50 of ministry that I will not realize I have been ministering in vain.
This study guide contains questions for 1 Timothy 3:14-4:16. Links to the previous study guides, for chapters 1, 2, and 3:1-13, are here
You may download this study guide by clicking on the download link below.
We're studying 1 Timothy in our Sunday morning bible study. This is a great study, and we've come to a difficult passage--1 Tim. 2:8-15. This passage raises a number of questions:
1. Are we to take it literally (as we typically do for 2:9-15 about women)? If so, why do we not hold it as a requirement for men to pray and lift up their hands?
2. What are we to make of Paul inserting himself into this passage through first-person language? Are these instructions merely his opinion?
3. What does Paul mean by "assuming authority" (2:12)? How far should this extend?
4. Why does Paul talk about Adam and Eve?
For the purpose of this note, I'm going to completely bracket out a discussion of verse 15, as well as any argument about Paul's restrictions on women.
To answer the first question: If we take one set of instructions literally (either to the men or to the women), we must also take the second set of instructions literally. It is not enough to say the instructions for men to pray with hands lifted is cultural but the instructions about how women are to dress or the restrictions on women are timeless (the apparent theological reference to Adam and Eve notwithstanding).
Secondly, we sometimes overlook how often Paul refers to himself in the Pastoral Letters (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus). Because this can be an emotionally charged passage, we look for ways to "soften the blow." Some even look for ways to evade these instructions, either by throwing out an uncritical "cultural" argument or by pointing to Paul's first-person language as though these instructions are merely Paul's opinion that can be taken or left as one desires.
Paul uses personal language often in these letters. For example, Paul refers to the way God used him to demonstrate God's great mercy (1:12-17). Are we to infer that this is just a good idea or one way of looking at things merely because Paul uses himself as an example to make a larger point about Christ Jesus' patience towards those who would believe in him (1:16)? On the contrary, Paul's theological argument is valid; his experience extends his argument and is secondary to it.
Further, Paul considers himself an apostle (1:1). In earlier New Testament letters Paul has shown no fear in arguing from his apostleship. He derives authority from his apostleship and uses it from time to time (for example, 2 Corinthians 10-12). It is fair to say that when Paul uses first-person language in this passage, he is not passing on his opinion, but his apostolic teaching about the issue at hand.
Thirdly, Paul deals with Adam and Eve (2:13-14). For what purpose? Are they offered merely as an illustrative example, or as the theological basis for Paul's argument? In my view, Paul uses them merely as an example to illustrate his point. This is in part because of verse 15, which Paul includes as a way of indicating that his example in verses 13-14 breaks down.
Finally, what does Paul mean when he says "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man"? The italicized phrase is difficult to interpret. It is a verb that is relatively rare in Greek and, in fact, only appears in the New Testament in this one place. That makes it even more difficult to interpret because there are no other uses in the NT to compare it to.
The rest of the sentence, as well as verse 11, is pretty clear. Taken simply and literally, Paul teaches that women are to be learners, not teachers, in the church. Grammatically, the verb for "to assume authority" is an infinitive used in a complementary way. Daniel Wallace says, "The infinitive is very frequently used with "helper" verbs to complete their thought" (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics [Zondervan, 1996], p. 599).
As an example, Wallace cites Matthew 6:4--"You cannot serve God and mammon." Notice how the verb, "serve," is complemented by "God" and "mammon."
Thus, in 1 Tim. 2:12, "to teach" and "to assume authority" complement the (negative) verb, "I do not permit." They both relate what Paul doesn't permit, and because they are complementary, they relate to the same thing. Specifically, in this passage, according to Paul, a woman teaching a man is the same as a woman assuming authority over a man, that is, to set herself above him.
However, if we understand that the phrase "to assume authority" refers to taking, seizing, or usurping authority from men, what if the authority to teach is granted to a woman from the leading men? Does that alleviate her from "assuming authority"? Which is the real issue in this passage--promoting male leadership in teaching, or teaching proper roles that respect cultural distinctions in society? [Consider that Paul is also concerned that the church not run afoul of the authorities (2:1-7) and the latter takes on more relevance.]
If, grammatically and contextually, "assuming authority" is limited to the teaching act (and even more specifically, to the act of women teaching men the bible in the church), then we must recognize its limitations. How do we extend this to cover the whole of the worship service? How do we apply this over other passages that clearly demonstrate the communal nature of worship, and the involvement of women in such (1 Cor. 11:2-16)?
Obviously, there is a lot more that could be fleshed out here. In this note I wanted to detail what Paul was actually saying in this passage as opposed to what we often think he was saying. Did I succeed? What do you think?
I'm preaching from Luke 4:1-13 on Sunday. Here are some notes and study questions to get you thinking about Jesus, temptation, and your own spiritual growth.
Did You Know?
- Luke portrays as the "new Adam," much like Paul does in 1 Cor. 15. He expressed the absolute humanness of Jesus by mentioning how hungry Jesus was, and much like how Adam faced false promises from the serpent in Genesis 3, so Jesus must endure the false promises of the devil. "He has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin" (Heb. 4:15).
- Luke also reports the presence of the Spirit in Jesus. Make no mistake--Jesus didn't endure these temptations because he used "magic powers" to overcome. He became the example par excellence for us by relying on God through the Spirit. He taught us, through his example, the power of the Word of God and the Spirit of God in our lives.
- Jesus overcame temptations about physical needs, power, and pride by relying on the power of the Spirit and the promises of God.
- Note that the devil did not go away permanently; he only left until "an opportune time" (4:13).
- Why did Jesus have to face these temptations?
- How did he get through them?
- Why did the Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness (4:1)?
- Why did the devil twice bait Jesus as "the Son of God" (4:3, 9), but not on the second temptation (4:6)?
- Why did Jesus respond to the temptations with the phrase, "It is written," twice (4:4, 8), but not on the third temptation (4:12)?
- Why does Luke remind us that the devil only left Jesus "until an opportune time" (4:13)?
This is a follow-up to a post from last week where I wrote about how we used Twitter and Facebook in our church
. That post detailed the basics. This post will detail the specifics of our follow-up.
1. I began the day by posting two tweets from our church Twitter account
. The first tweet encouraged tweeting church members to provide thoughts, commentary, and questions
during the sermon. The second tweet contained a theme sentence for the sermon as well as links to my sermon outline and slides
2. Just like last week, I had someone in the office tweet the main points of my sermon
while I preached. These points were tweeted in real time.
3. We used the Twitter hashtag #hrcc
to organize the sermon tweets as well as any responses.
4. In the afternoon, I went back to Twitter, searched the hashtag, and responded to the tweets that came in during the sermon. For example, one member noted a similarity between the Joseph story and a movie
, and I responded, asking for more information
on that connection. Another member commented that goals help us persevere and I replied by asking if that part of the sermon was unclear and stating what I thought the goal should be
5. As the week goes on, I plan to follow up both with questions
to help church members apply
the biblical teaching from Sunday as well as questions to help me focus my sermon for the upcoming Sunday
6. I did pretty much the same thing on Facebook. On our Horton Road Church of Christ ministry page
, I requested that church members leave a comment detailing their reflections on the sermon
. To facilitate this, I had earlier messaged several church members to ask them for their participation.
7. I went back to Facebook in the afternoon and added my own comment to the thread. On Monday, I posted a follow-up question
to help church members apply the sermon. I also posted a thread to generate discussion ahead of my sermon
coming up this Sunday.
I plan to keep refining this system, and if you have any questions, feedback, or suggestions, please leave them in comments!
Did you know Jesus never taught church (or synagogue) attendance? Not even once.
He probably assumed the people he taught would attend their respective houses of worship, but he didn't feel the need to teach this as a core value. In fact, the gospels only present Jesus in the temple a few times--and in the one time they all report, Jesus tore the place apart!
Yet, for many of us, church attendance is the height of our spiritual commitment.
We have reasons for this. We point to one big reason in the bible itself: "[Do not give] up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but [encourage] one another" (Hebrews 10:25). We tell others that the bible commands their attendance at church meetings.
So we have church members attending bible studies out of obligation, not love. When obligation is the foundation, little encouragement happens. Lifelessness is prominent.
We have church members attending bible studies and worship services when they are sick. These poor members take the day off work, or struggle through the day, yet muster up their remaining strength to attend a bible study, rather than staying home and resting.
Is this really what God intended?
What if we misunderstood this teaching in Hebrews? One reality in Hebrews is that people were deserting the faith, giving up on it (and Jesus) in the midst of persecution and trial. There are numerous calls throughout this book to retain faith and keep strong (Heb. 2:1). The warning passages (Heb. 6:4-6, for example) are intended to remind people of what they have and what they stand to lose if they leave.
Then we come to Hebrews 10:25.
We need to remember that the early church was nowhere near as developed as we are, two thousand years later. We have buildings, an internal structure, a board of directors, a leadership structure, programs, meetings, budgets, bank accounts, legal forms, policies, things to maintain, and people to pay. The early church had little of this.
What the early church had was each other.
This is the core of what the writer is teaching in Heb. 10:25. If you don't have each other, you can't possibly stay faithful. That's why you need to focus on encouraging each other as a core value. Encouragement builds the body of Christ and keeps others strong when they feel like quitting.
"Meeting together," in Heb. 10:25, is not about attendance at the church building. It's about not giving up on others, or yourself, or Jesus. It's about not giving in to temptation and trials. It's about remembering who and whose you are. It's about being together as a group, sharing the unity and fellowship that are in Christ.
So if you're sick, stay home and rest. There's no need to be around others. No mature believer will look down on you.
If you're tired after a long day, take the night off. Don't feel obligated to attend a Wednesday night bible study out of fear of what others will say or think. No mature believer looks at church attendance as the barometer of your faithfulness. (In fact, they shouldn't be measuring your faithfulness to begin with; they have enough to worry about with themselves.)
Jesus taught that we are to love and serve each other. This happens in and out of meetings, worship services, and bible studies. Church attendance, in any form, is not the goal we are after.
Focus on love, service, and encouragement--and let your attendance serve these goals.
Do you agree? Disagree? Please leave your comments.
As I've been studying biblical church leadership over the past year, I keep coming back to the New Testament books of 1 Timothy and Titus and these passages: 1 Corinthians 12-14; Romans 12:3-8; and Ephesians 4:7-16. It's rare for a book on church leadership to give proper attention to these passages, so I find myself reading and thinking about these texts (and commentaries on them).
Recently, I found a book called The Equipping Ministry of the Pastor
(EMP), by Jerry File. EMP is a short book, only 93 pages long. But it's well-written, and it covers the pastor's work by specific study of the problems in the Corinthian church (mainly due to the arguments over spiritual gifts in chapters 12-14), the work of the pastor detailed by Paul in 1 Timothy, and the five-fold ministry of leadership presented in Ephesians 4.
Dr. File states that the goal of church leadership, and the ultimate purpose of the pastor (referred throughout as the teaching-shepherd, via Ephesians 4:12), is to equip the saints for perfection. The pastor does this mainly through teaching the word to the congregation. (It's the congregation's responsibility to learn and to allow the pastor time for study and teaching.) Teaching the congregation is done both corporately and privately, either in small groups or in individual meetings.
File also places emphasis on the role of the evangelist. He points out that, biblically, evangelists would proclaim the gospel, call the converted together to form a church, and appoint elders before moving on to a different area. These appointed elders could become the teaching-shepherds of the congregation, or the congregation could employ a teaching-shepherd from outside the congregation.
As File is presumably Baptist, based on the seminaries he attended, it's no surprise that he does not cover the role of the apostle and prophet in the contemporary church. In fact, he states that these roles were foundational (Eph. 2:20) and have since passed away since the foundation has been laid. He locates this foundation in the completion and formation of the New Testament. While I see this logic, I also have some reservations about it and see no problem acknowledging that God may gift, through his Spirit, different individuals to function apostolically or prophetically. The difference for me is that these are not given titles of "apostle" or "prophet." Instead, they function this way because of their gifts.
Much attention is paid to the equipping of the church. The pastor is to teach the word because it's through the word that the church becomes equipped for ministry, and it's through equipping that the church is perfected. This incorporates insights from 1 Corinthians 12-14, as File points out that the church is not to expect the pastor to do all the ministry. In fact, the church, through their various gifts, is expected to minister to each other. They learn about this, and become equipped for it, through the teaching ministry of the teaching-shepherd/pastor.
This book is a little light in places and I would have liked more depth. Overall, it presents a nice study, almost in outline form, of the work of the pastor and the expectations of the church. For me, the attention paid to biblical texts lets me offer a strong recommendation for this book. If you are looking for a book that details biblical leadership, you will be happy with this one.
Nehemiah 8:1-10 (Introduction)
Good bible reading goes beyond merely acquiring information. To read the bible properly, we need to do so transformatively, seeking application that leads us to action.
In Nehemiah 8:1-10, Ezra the priest called the Israelites together for worship. This worship was quite unlike anything we'd expect today. Rather than singing praise songs for an hour or listening to a 30 minute sermon, the Israelites heard Ezra read from the law for hours at a time. And they "listened attentively to the Book of the Law" (8:3).
The immediate result of listening to the law being read was worship (8:6). The people understood from the law that God was holy and they needed to be his servants. But they became self-absorbed with their worship. Perhaps they began to feel that they had accomplished a lot simply by worshiping God. Perhaps they dwelt too long on their sins.
Nehemiah noticed that the people did not properly understand the purpose of the bible study they were involved with. He reminded them that bible reading and study was not to result in prolonged introspection and weeping. Proper bible reading is to be transformative--it needs to result in action.
This is why Nehemiah commanded the people to stop mourning and weeping (8:9). They were not wrong to feel this way. But these feelings were not the goal of the bible study--action was. So he told them to stop mourning and weeping (8:9).
Instead, they were to feed themselves...and others. They were to "send [food] to those who have nothing prepared" (8:10). This is what all good, proper, transformative bible study does--it provokes us to action.
The Dangers of Bible Study
There are some dangers in bible study, however. The first danger is to simply stop reading. Bible study and reading can be difficult. We do well to read the bible, but because the bible is a large book that contains many different genres, we can become unsure how or what to read. The temptation is to stop. We need to overcome this temptation by pressing on, reading, learning, and doing.
The second danger of bible study is to focus on knowledge for its own sake. When we read the bible, we become excited about what we're learning. But we go wrong when our excitement flows over into merely acquiring knowledge. Our spiritual growth isn't about how much we know, but about how much we are being changed--by God, through his word.
The third danger of bible study is to become prideful because of the knowledge we are gaining. This is different from the second danger because that danger focused only on knowledge acquisition. This danger is worse, because it causes us to look down on others who don't know as much as we do. We should never compare ourselves to others based on bible knowledge or how many bible studies we attend.
The Purpose of Bible Study
In contrast to these, proper bible study leads us to worship God. As we learn about the bible, we learn about God--who he is, what he's done, and what he's going to do. We learn about his plan of salvation. We learn about Jesus, and how we are to live like him. This leads us to worship, to be in awe of God.
Proper bible study should also lead us to good works. Just as Nehemiah encouraged the Israelites to ministry, we need to learn from our bible reading to be involved in ministry. This is merely an extension of Jesus' ministry, so as we learn about him, we learn what we need to do--serve and love others in his name.
Finally, proper bible study strengthens our faith in God. The motivation given to the Israelites for overcoming themselves and serving others is to allow the joy they have in God to be their strength. Bible reading should promote strong and growing faith in God. And as your faith increases, your joy does as well!
As Paul reminds in Romans 12:1-2, God desires for us to serve him. He transforms us as we allow him to. As we read the bible and seek to apply it, God teaches us how to serve him better. Proper bible study leads us to worship God, to good works, and to stronger faith in him.
This is a follow-up to Sunday's sermon, explaining how Paul extends his teaching about how we need to contribute to and cooperate for the common good. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Paul teaches that we, though diverse, are unified as one body in Christ. Because of that, we are obligated to live a certain way, which includes performing our individual duties so that the whole body functions properly.