Serious Bible Study is Not Just for Men

The title of this post is one of the assignments I’ve been given for Polishing the Pulpit, and what a great study it has been!  I knew I would love it and need it.

Have you ever been to a ladies’ day or ladies’ retreat where the topic was fluffy?  Where it seemed like the decorating theme must’ve taken precedence over the study theme?  It’s all cotton candy and no meat (but it’s pretty!).  Well, there’s nothing wrong with that.  Ladies’ days and retreats are extras.  They’re sweet times of fellowship meant to encourage and uplift.  However, I think we sell ourselves (and our teen girls) short.  I think we need to thirst for deeper waters so that we can be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, that we may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him… and increasing in the knowledge of God.”  That was Paul’s prayer for the saints (Col. 1:9,10).

Knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual understanding.  We won’t gain any of those unless we become serious about Bible study.  Do you consider yourself a serious student of God’s Word?  If not, why not?  What could be more important?  What could possibly take precedence in our lives over “increasing in the knowledge of God”?  Believe you me, these   are questions I’m asking myself, too.

Let’s encourage each other and let’s challenge each other to study for ourselves instead of just relying on the study that others have done.  Serious Bible study is for all of us.

Prayer for Today:  Your Word, Lord, is living and powerful.  Help me be more convicted to spend quality time every day discovering its truths.

 

 

Status Accountability

If it’s true that encouragement can change people, then it must also be true that discouragement can as well, only not for the good.  Discouragement removes joy, causes doubt, questions abilities, and can make one want to give up.  No doubt we’ve all experienced it.  Certainly none of us want to be the cause of it.

Social media has increased our accountability.  Consider the words of Jesus:

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36, 37).

Our words impact others and we are being held accountable for each and every one.  With every posted status or comment, we must ask, “Will this bring sunshine or gloom to the reader?”  Of course I’m not talking about prayer requests.  It is blessing to be able to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).  I’m talking about ways we might negatively impact others.  For instance:

  • If the very first time we contact someone is to object, criticize, or point out a perceived wrong, it probably won’t have the kind of effect we hope it will.  Relationship is necessary.  Just because we are “friends” or followers on social media doesn’t mean we’ve built the kind of rapport essential to any kind of admonishment being well received.
  • While venting may temporarily relieve our own frustration, it really doesn’t do much for the reader no matter how wittily we word it.  Everyone experiences bad customer service, careless drivers on the road, messed up orders, or any number of life’s daily annoyances.  What do we hope to gain by sharing it?  Sympathy?  The comments generally show that all we’re doing is reminding others how frustrating life can be.  Surely we want to accomplish something better than that with our words.  Complaining is just a bad habit (Phil. 2:14).
  • We’re not going to agree with everything written or posted, but let’s choose our battles wisely.  And let’s consider our influence as Christians with the tone we use.  No matter how “right” we may be, sarcasm still sounds obnoxious.
  • And finally, we really are not meant to be the Police of Social Media.  Let’s not be Facebook trollers out to catch others doing bad.  Let’s catch others doing good.  While there may be times when we can and should offer a gentle word (in private) of admonishment, more often than not we can and should offer grace.

We know that we should think before we speak.  Sometimes we need to be reminded to think before we post as well.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29).

Prayer for Today:  Help me use my words, Lord, to draw others closer to You.

Image credit: Facebook (mslk.com)

Weary and Discouraged in Your Soul

I’m almost afraid to write this because I know I won’t do it justice.  This morning I felt like I needed to study the subject of faithfulness and landed in Hebrews 12.  The rich text spoke directly to my heart.  I became still as I absorbed some timely truths and reminders.  Truly, “the word of God is living and active…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Are you weary and discouraged in your soul?  Weariness and discouragement don’t claim us after minor incidents, brief trials, or single slip-ups.  They are the result of time–an extended period of time dealing with something weighing.

  • In your marriage.  Perhaps you’ve been working through some issues that seem to keep cropping up no matter what.  You are decades into your marriage but still face disappointment on a regular basis.  Your thoughts might run along the lines of, “You’d think after all these years we’d have this figured out by now.  I’m sick and tired of dealing with this.”
  • With your health.  You or your loved one might be dealing with chronic illness.  Perhaps you’re battling cancer or just trying to survive one painful day at a time.  You wonder when or if you’ll get better. You may be thinking, “What have I done to deserve this?  I just want one good day of strength and relief.  Is that too much to ask?
  • Trying to make a living.  Maybe you can’t seem to get a reliable job that will make enough to take care of your needs.  Or perhaps you’re trying to raise support to do mission work and can’t understand why many aren’t willing to contribute.  You think, “I’m a hard worker and believe in clean living.  Why do I struggle to make ends meet?”  Or, “I’m just trying to do the Lord’s work.  Doesn’t anyone believe in my efforts?”
  • In your spiritual walk.  Do the same temptations keep tripping you up?  Perhaps you find yourself praying for forgiveness again and again.  You look in the mirror and label yourself, “Weakling.”  You feel like a hypocrite.  You might wonder, “Why can’t I overcome this?  Is God fed up with me?”

In various areas of our lives, we can become weary and discouraged.  Some give up.  After decades of marriage, a spouse walks out.  After years of God’s faithfulness, a Christian turns away.  It’s heartbreaking.  A recurring theme in the book of Hebrews is “hold fast” (3:14; 10:23).  In chapter 12, it seems there are two different types of situations that can discourage us from doing just that.

1.  TRIALS (Heb. 12:1-3)

Do trials get any easier to bear when they’re longterm?  Does one become immune to weariness after months or years of struggle?  Just ask someone who’s living it.  Their battle is daily and as real as it was in the beginning, if not more so.  This is where “weary and discouraged in your soul” is used by the Hebrews writer, and he gives us ways to prevent it from happening.

Lay aside.  “Lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (v. 1).  Burdens and sins are sometimes companions.  Whatever is weighing on us can lead to anger, resentment, bitterness, and a waning of faith in God’s promises.  We must resist the temptation to think our prayers are useless and keep praying, keep asking God to lift the weight.  Each new day, try again to lay it all aside.

Run.  “Run with endurance the race that is set before us” (v. 1).  Endurance is the key, isn’t it?  The question is, “What am I going to do?”  The answer is, “Keep going.”  We know where we’re going and that’s Heaven.  Even when feeling beat up on, we must just keep running, one foot in the front of the other.

Look.  Because God knows that endurance is easier said than done, He tells us where to keep our focus.  “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (v. 2).  Focus on Jesus.  Why?  Because He “endured the cross” (v. 2) and “endured such hostility from sinners against Himself” (v. 3).  Through no fault of His own, He suffered but He endured.  He put His faith into action and kept going.

2.  WEAKNESSES (12:5-13)

Children of God need the chastening of the Lord.  We have weaknesses.  After reminding us of the importance of God’s discipline, the Hebrews writer tells us how to endure when battling our own weaknesses (and this is the part of the chapter that caught my attention this morning).

Strengthen.  “Strengthen the hands which hang down and the feeble knees” (v. 12).  What are hands which hang down?  The NASU reads “hands which are weak.”  To hang down or be weak comes from a word which means to release, to let go, to hurl.  What a visual!  This is when we just let go instead of holding fast.  The Hebrew Christians were returning to their old ways (Judaism) and don’t we do the same?  We give in to our weaknesses and old habits.  Feeble knees are those which have relaxed or loosened.  It’s the very opposite standing firm.  To strengthen means to make right again, to erect.  If we’ve let go, we need to strengthen our resolve to keep trying to do right.

Straighten.  “Make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (v. 13).  I love this verse.  It’s encouraging to know that there are times when we’ll be broken but we can still be healed.  A broken spiritual life or even a broken marriage can be made whole.  To make straight paths for your feet means to create a way that is right, like wagon ruts that are safe to follow because they will lead to where you want to go.  “So that the lame may not be dislocated.”  The NASU reads “so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint.”  A more literal reading would be “that it be not turned out of the way.”  Giving in to our own weaknesses can cause us to go astray or be wayward.  Instead, we must make straight paths so we can heal, so we can keep going in the right direction, albeit a bit more slowly.

Whether through outside trials or our own weaknesses, there may be times when we feel weary and discouraged.  A very human response is to want to give up, but God tells us we can endure and we can be healed.  I trust that, don’t you?  Sometimes it’s just good to be reminded.

A Much-Loved Preacher’s Wife–interview with Tish Housley (& recipes!)

Tish Housley made an impact on me.  In March, Neal and I walked into her home in Montgomery, AL, for a meal.  Her cozy kitchen and warm smile instantly relaxed us.  In one weekend, she had us over for a home cooked meal three different times!  She is an excellent cook and sweet conversationalist.  What struck me the most about Tish, however, is how much her church family loves her.  I watched her interact with members of all ages.  Their faces would light up as she hugged and talked with them.  The members talked about her behind her back but it was all complimentary.  Even though I didn’t ask, they told me about her sincerity and loving heart.  Here’s the amazing part–Tish isn’t adored because she is new.  Steve and Tish have been serving with the Eastern Meadows congregation for almost 30 years!  If we lived closer, I know I’d want to spend as much time as possible learning from this delightful Christian woman.  Tish graciously agreed to let me interview her.  I love her answers and I know you will, too.

Tish, tell us a little about yourself, please.

I grew up on a dairy farm near West Plains, Missouri.  Yes, I know how to milk a cow, with an electric milker.  I attended Freed-Hardeman University, and there I met my best friend, Steve Housley.  We married in May of 1980 after we both graduated.  In the summer of 1980, Steve and I worked with the Central congregation in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  Steve had the pleasure of working alongside James Meadows as the assistant minister.  In the fall, Steve continued his education at Harding Graduate School, and I taught fifth grade at Harding Academy.  After only a year, we moved to Lucedale, Mississippi, where we worked with the Rocky Creek congregation.  During the six years we were blessed to be at Rocky Creek, Beth and Brooks were born.  In November of 1987, we moved to Montgomery, Alabama, and continue to be at this wonderful church.  During this time, I stayed at home with my children for ten years.  Beth and Brooks attended Alabama Christian Academy, and I would help out at school when needed.  Gradually, I found myself at school more and more frequently substituting, and before I knew it, I was teaching full time.  I taught there for nineteen and a half years.  I loved being there with my children.  My father’s and father-in-law’s health began to decline so I retired to help out with them.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a preacher’s wife more loved by her church family.  How have you been able to get into the hearts of your Christian brothers and sisters?  

“First of all, I try to simply be a part of the congregation.  I really think they are in my heart more than I am in theirs.  I love them; they are my family!  I don’t want it to be an “us and them.”  I want it to be a “we.”  Try not to hold back.  Jump in and help no matter what the job is.  Find ways to encourage but not take over.”

What advice can you offer other preachers’ wives who are trying to build good relationships?

“Be careful to be friendly to everyone.  We all have our close friends, and we need that.  Get with those special friends at another time other than before and after the worship service.  Try to get around to everyone especially those that seem to be isolated.  

Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and work.  I will never forget meeting Sister Howard, V.E. Howard’s wife.  I was twenty years old on a campaign in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  We girls always did the dishes after lunch before going out door knocking.  Sister Howard had eaten lunch with us that day.  After eating, she didn’t just sit there.  She stood up, walked over to the sink, and began washing dishes.  That impressed me.  I thought she was royalty, but yet, she did not think of herself that way.  She was one of us.  I loved that!”

What do you love most about being a preacher’s wife?

“I love being able to serve, but anyone can and should do that.  I do think we have a unique way to serve in that we are closer to the preacher than anyone.  I feel like I am his number one assistant.  I want to make home special, a little vacation place for him.  We might only have an hour in the evening to spend together, but I want that hour to be like a mini vacation.  

I don’t want him to nervous about being able to invite people into our home.  I try to keep it presentable.

I don’t think of being a preacher as his job; we are a team!  I love that!”

You are very hospitable, Tish!  What is your favorite company meal?

“The easiest meal is a roast.  I can put it in the oven and go on with other things.  I will put onions and carrots in the roast.  Every once in a while I’ll put potatoes but Steve really likes yellow rice.  I cook different vegetables to go along with the roast, but most of the time, green beans will be a side dish and also a salad.  I love the Chinese chicken salad.  For dessert, I will make an apple pie or red velvet cake.”

Would you mind sharing one of your favorite recipes with us?

“I will have to share two.  (You can pick the one you want to keep.)”

I’m going to share both (see below).   I’ve had your Tomato Pie and it’s delicious!  Thank you, Tish, for your time and for your wise insight.  I thank God for you!

TOMATO PIE

  • 4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped (I use dried about 1 ½ teaspoon)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion (You can also use a regular onion)
  • 1 (9-inch) prebaked deep dish pie shell
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • 1 cup grated cheddar
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place the tomatoes in a colander in the sink in 1 layer. Sprinkle with salt and allow to drain for 10 minutes.

3. Layer the tomato slices, basil, and onion in pie shell. Season with salt and pepper. Combine the grated cheeses and mayonnaise together. Spread mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

4. To serve, cut into slices and serve warm.

PORTABLE CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1 (16 ounce) package coleslaw mix
  • 2 (3 ounce) packages chicken flavored ramen noodles, crushed, seasoning packet reserved
  • 1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds (I brown them in a skillet with the ramen noodles)
  • 1/2 cup corn oil
  • 1/2 cup rice garlic vinegar or regular vinegar
  • 1 packet artificial sweetener or regular sugar

Directions

1. Sauté chicken in a large skillet until well browned or boil in water and drain (cool chicken). Place coleslaw in a large bowl, add chicken and set aside (or refrigerate if not serving soon).

2. Break up ramen noodles into a small bowl; add almonds.  I brown in a skillet with oil.

3. In a small bowl combine the corn oil, vinegar, ramen seasoning packets and artificial sweetener or sugar. Mix well and set aside until ready to serve.

4. When you arrive at your destination, add noodle mixture and dressing mixture to large chicken/coleslaw bowl and stir together.

Steve & Tish Housley

Do I Help Others Thank God?

We are spending time together as a family, all five of us, and I am soaking it all in.  I am mindful of the many reasons to thank God for family, for love, for commitment, and for memories.  I am thanking God for the reminder to treasure the here and now and to embrace His gifts.  Even when facing difficulties or experiencing hardships, God showers us with reasons to enjoy the pleasurable sensation of gratitude.  Because of that, I want to be more diligent in showering others with reasons to look up and praise God.

  • With my husband, may I daily give him reasons to thank God for our marriage.  This means each morning I must renew the commitment to love unconditionally.
  • With my sons, may I help them see God’s forgiveness, patience, and tenderness by offering those consistently as their parent.  My love for them should make it easier for them to understand God’s love for them.
  • With my fellow Christians, may I give them reasons to praise God for companionship, encouragement, and sincere interest.  What a unique blessing the Lord’s church is!  May I do my part to help others remember that.
  • With those in my community, may I look for ways to cause them to pause and look up, to see God as the source of all good.  This means I must look like His Son as much as possible by being friendly, by being unselfish.  I can’t live unto myself but must look around with interest in the souls around me.

Today is always the beginning of our future.  I pray that I will do so much better in showering others with reasons to thank God.  Nothing is more important than making sure my life (my actions and my attitude) makes it easier for others to see God.

Prayer for Today:  Thank You, Lord, for showering me with reasons to praise You.  Please help me do better at intentionally helping others see You.

Teens in the Word

Some have asked what Teens in the Word is all about and I’m happy to discuss one of the highlights of our week.  There’s nothing out of the ordinary about it.  Very simply, we just wanted to provide an opportunity for our teens to learn how to study the Bible for themselves.  No matter what they hear in life or what they’re exposed to, if they know how to study, they’ll be able to discern between Truth and deception (2 Tim. 3:15).  They’ll know where to turn when their faith is shaky (Rom. 10:17).  And they’ll continue to grow spiritually as they are guided and molded by the powerful Word (Heb. 4:12).   Here’s the setup:

  • Teens in the Word meets in our home every Tuesday night.
  • The teens spend the first half hour or so enjoying a hot cooked meal and fellowshipping.
  • Then they spend an hour and a half getting into God’s Word.

That’s all there is to it!  Now for the fun facts:

-Michael Hite, one of the individuals who first came up with the idea, has devoted his time to teaching the teens every week.  He has done an outstanding job of showing them how to find and mark key words, how to understand context, how to ask questions of the text, and much more.  The few adults present are learning as much as the teens!  He has chosen Colossians 1: 9-12 as our theme, emphasizing “gaining knowledge to walk worthy.”  He even designed a great logo with this idea and had it placed on hoodies for each of the teens.  Michael provided a Question Box the very first week.  The questions submitted have given us a glimpse into the hearts of these young people.  They think deep and they care about souls.

-Lynn Hite and I were just going to take turns providing the meal each week.  Little did we know that parents would start volunteering to bring the meal (enough to feed 30).  Even members who don’t have teens have offered to help!  We’ve been so encouraged by all the ladies who have looked for ways to be involved.

-Honestly, we thought Teens in the Word would start out strong and then dwindle down to “the faithful few.”  How wrong we were!  The numbers continue to grow and we love seeing enthusiasm build.  Even though they have homework and extracurricular activities, these teens are still willing to devote an extra night each week to Bible study.  Some come straight from coaching, arriving too late for the meal but still wanting to participate in the study.  Their dedication has been humbling and inspiring.

-And finally, one of the most exciting developments….While originally intended for Bear Valley members, Teens in the Word has grown to include new friends from the community.  We are thrilled with the young men (and a mom) who have shown up each week to study God’s Word, even though they at first didn’t know any of the other teens.  These new relationships have greatly enriched our Tuesday nights together.

Occasionally we have to cancel a study because of scheduling conflicts or travel.  Tonight is one of those occasions.  I imagine I’m not the only one who will be missing the fellowship and study with such dear and genuine teens.  They want to be challenged spiritually.  They want to grow in the knowledge of Christ.  I thank God for them and for the way He is using them to bless us.

Prayer for Today:  Thank you, Lord, for all young people who love Your Word.

the very first Teens in the Word

When Christianity is Threatened

Do you ever feel like the odds are against Christians?  Or that we’re being ganged up on?  It seems like any view or practice can be promoted except biblical ones.  How long will preachers be able to share the Truth freely?  Will there come a day when the gospel is threatened, perhaps banned?  If so, it won’t be the first time.

God has given us a game plan and that comforts me.  Today’s post is one that we must share with our children, our Bible classes, our friends, and our youth groups.  It will bolster our courage.  It will help us get ready for whatever comes.

Text:  Acts 4

The setting:  Peter and John had been preaching about Jesus.  Some influential people were “greatly disturbed” enough to put them in custody.  Then, in front of a large crowd, the two outspoken Christians were put on the spot.  They were asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”  I can envision Peter lifting his chin and raising his voice as he named Jesus Christ and said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved!”  That was all it took.  Let’s see what we can learn from the dramatic events that unfolded.

The Catalyst (v. 13,14)

  • -The people “saw the boldness” of Christians (v. 13).
  • -The people “realized that they had been with Jesus” (v. 13).
  • -The people “could say nothing against it” (v. 14).

The Reaction (v. 17-21)

  • -The influential people planned. “Let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”  Their goal was to make sure that the name of Jesus would “spread no further among the people” (v. 17).
  • -The people “commanded [the Christians] not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (v. 18).
  • -The people “further threatened them” (v. 21).

The Solution (v. 19-31)

  • -Determine to listen to God instead of the people (v. 19).
  • -Keep speaking (v. 20).
  • -Glorify God (v. 21).
  • -Talk to God as a united group (v. 24).
  • -PRAY.  Ask God for continued boldness to speak His Word in light of threats (v. 29, 31).
  • -Then ACT by speaking the word of God with all boldness (v. 31).

The Outcome (v. 32-37)

  • -The Christians were united (v. 32).
  • -They had “great power” and “great grace” (v. 33).
  • -The Christians took care of each other (v. 34, 35).
  • -It spurred other Christians to act (v. 37).

When the Christians were threatened, they must’ve been intimidated.  Surely they felt fear. But instead of simply lamenting the fact that those in authority were anti-Jesus, they turned to God, prayed for boldness, and then continued to speak up for Christ.  May Christians today do the same!

“Why did the nations rage,

and the people plot vain things?

The kings of the earth took their stand, 

and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord

and against His Christ.”

(Acts 4:25,26)

Group hug after a baptism