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How can I follow a God who sends people to hell?

God's chief desire is that we would avoid hell. The Scriptures tell us that He sends Jesus into the world to save us from the consequences of our rebellion (hell) rather than to send us to hell (John 3:16-21).

Why isn't it enough just to be a good person?

Christianity is not first and foremost about morality; it is about relationship. God is a person, not a thing, and desires that we relate to Him as a person. If He is the creator, the One in whom all things begin and in whom all things find their completion, then it is with Him that fullness of life is found.

The same is true about our future. Scripture describes heaven as the place where God is. It isn't some perfect amusement park that we somehow squeak into by the skin of our teeth. If we embrace Jesus now, then heaven is the place where that relationship continues without our current hindrances and ignorance. Hell is described as relational separation from God. It is the option for those who would not enjoy God's presence. Hell is a dead end, since further growth springs from intimacy God.

What about all the evil done in the name of God?

The fact that people fail to live up to an ideal does not mean there is necessarily anything wrong with the ideal. It does mean that there is something wrong with us, though. Jesus was pretty straight with us about our shortcomings. God is perfect and demands perfection, but none of us live perfect lives; all of us are screwed up.

How can we say that Jesus is the only way to God?

There are good and bad directions.

We know that we cannot get from Bellingham to Seattle by car by driving north on I-5; the Mount Baker highway will not take you to Mount Hood; and you can't get to my house on James Street. (You'll have to trust me on the last one.)

Why should I believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead?

There is little question that the story we have about Jesus is historical—the cities, politicians, and religious leaders He interacted with have all been confirmed historically. We have little reason to believe that the words of Jesus in Scripture are inaccurate, since they were passed on to us by the people who hung out with Him.

As long as I'm sincere in what I believe, isn't that enough for God?

Sincerity is important. Peer pressure and a desire for acceptance are poor reasons to follow Jesus. God doesn't ask us to fake it; He desires a free and sincere obedience.

But sincerity should not be confused with truth. I can sincerely believe that the earth is flat, but I will still be sincerely wrong. Since all of my decisions will result in real consequences, I want to base my decisions on the best information possible. Walking off a 100-foot cliff will result in great pain, regardless of my personal belief concerning the law of gravity. If Jesus is the Son of God, if He really is the source of life and fulfillment, then I really do rob myself of joy, peace and deeper growth by walking away from Him. Our response should be sincere, but it needs to be based on truth.

Are people who never heard about God going to hell?

I can't give a definite answer to that question. I have to trust God's character and believe that He will do what is right. Does Jesus appear to people who have never heard about Him in the last moments of their life, or just after they die, and give them a chance to respond? I don't know, but that wouldn't be inconsistent with His character. He desires that no one would be lost.

What difference does Jesus really make in the end?

I was standing in downtown Seattle when a college student came racing up to a man sitting on a mailbox. "Am I first?" he asked. "I just ran 20 blocks to find you." The man reached into his pocket and pulled out an envelope. The college student whooped with joy. He had heard a radio announcement that this man would be sitting on this mailbox holding tickets to a sold-out rock concert for the first person that found him.

I don't believe organized religion is necessary

If by "organized religion" you mean an impersonal, monolithic bureaucracy, then I share your desire to escape such an institution; but the church is something very different. A church is a group of people who have come together to worship God together, and to encourage and aid each other as they grow closer to Him. Jesus' intention in establishing the church was to create a community that would be united in love and service.

I'm interested in Jesus, but I don't want to have to become a Republican

Contrary to many media reports, the Christian community contains just as many Democrats as Republicans (Barna Report).

Jesus was offered the option of political power a couple of times. In one case, a crowd wanted to make Him king. His response was to slip away and spend some quality time with His heavenly Father; Jesus refused to align Himself with any political movement. Political parties are human institutions and subject to all the flaws and fickle goals of any other human institutions.

This does not mean that Christians are not politically active. As citizens of this nation, we are responsible to be involved in the democratic process. We are to attempt to represent Christ's compassion and justice, but never to confuse our civic duty with the deeper work of Christ's kingdom. Nor are we to tie the church to any one political agenda.

Part 2: Small Group Leadership

The small group leader is not the only teacher, and the small group is not a traditional class sitting in rows of chairs listening to a lecture. Learning comes through interaction, discovery, modeling of leaders, problem solving, and the study and application of the Scriptures.

Part 3: Small Group Topics

Discussion About Miscellaneous Topics
 

Part 5: Small Group Resources

Worshipping in Your Small Group

by Lynn Mather Breitenbach

Worship in a small group setting can be very different than in the large group setting, especially if you have folks who are insecure about their own worshiping. The first thing to do is to put people at ease by letting them know that we are all beginners in worship. Then help them by having a structure prepared to help them worship. Then model what you want your small group to do. This may mean that you have to step out of your own comfort zone. Use this as a challenge to grow deeper in worship.

Part 1: Small Group Beginnings

Once you have decided to begin a Christian small group, how do you get it started and keep it going? Understanding some of the basic issues in group life can help you build healthy small groups and avoid some of the more common mistakes. These issues include:

Titus 2 Men

In the modern church seeking to minister to the culture which surrounds it, one of the greatest obstacles to salvation and growth is a lack of spiritual—or even moral—role modeling. Lest you think this is an irrelevant issue, consider the following:  

Case Study #1: Wife was raised in a non-Christian home. Her father left when she was 13 and she barely saw him again. Her mother is a very severe alcoholic and physically abused her daughter while she was growing up. She was put in foster care as a teen and went through three bad homes interested only in the money. Finally at age 17 she had one good foster home, where she was loved and shown she was worthwhile.The husband was raised in a non-Christian home. His parents were good old-fashioned pagan people committed to the family and the values of the world. Heavy social drinking and TV watching were the family mainstays.

Question: Where will these two, members of Hillcrest Chapel, find out about parenting and what it means to be a godly husband or wife?



Case Study #2: The husband doesn't assume responsibility for the family. He lives a single lifestyle with the benefits of marriage, happy in the marriage as long as the wife takes care of his needs and pays the bills. She is disillusioned.

Question: Where will this Hillcrest couple find out about the responsibilities and privileges of marriage? Where will they go to find models of what it means to be a husband/father, wife/mother?

 


Case Study #3: They had all the appearances of a great American family; they went to church and the father had a comfortable, well-paying job. He was respected at his workplace and in the community. But he ruled his family by intimidation. His expectations for his children were so high that if they brought home a B on a report card, it was not good enough. There was never any affirmation, but many reminders as to how each child had failed. There is great fear in the hearts of the children, and the mother no longer confronts the father because she, too, is afraid. The children have grown up with aching loneliness and a desire for the tenderness denied them. They have feelings of guilt and have difficulty communicating with anyone, because they have stuffed their feelings in order to cope with the pain. Now as young adults, they have difficulties getting along with any male figure, e.g., employer, teacher, friend, even God.

Question: Who will help these young adults find out what it means to be a loving, caring Christian family? Who will help them see what authentic Christianity is about?

 


Generation to Generation—Titus 2's Mandate for Men

These are all Hillcrest Chapel people. What do they need? They need people in the church to teach and demonstrate to them how to live! When we describe the benefits of the Christian life, we have to include the potential relationships with all our spiritual brothers and sisters, or we are not telling the whole story.

The Christian family unit, regardless of its configuration, is not a lone entity. It does not stand on its own! Christians are inextricably linked to a profoundly blessed and eternally helpful family tree. If families will take advantage of the benefits of the wisdom, blessing, and association they can have with other Christians and Christian families, they will eliminate many of the problems that plague Christians today. On the other hand, if our families disassociate themselves from their rights and privileges as God's extended family of believers, they will unnecessarily pay a high price for that isolation. It is tragic to see an individual Christian family navigating on its own, like preferring to inhabit a small lifeboat in high seas when God intends us to be on board an ocean liner that can withstand the highest seas in safety.

Likewise, singles attempting to function without association with the church will also live in unnecessary pain and loneliness. Let me illustrate how important the church is to us, by taking you to the Island of Crete, in the Apostle Paul's day. Paul had to leave Crete before everything was put in order in the church, so he sent Titus to straighten out what was left unfinished (Titus 1:5). The church at Crete had a number of problems, including:

The False Teachers-1:10-11. They were completely untrustworthy, and needed to be silenced because they were wrecking whole households with their teaching and doctrine-v. 11. This is the strategy of much contemporary teaching as well. The household is under attack by teachings and beliefs designed to reshape our view of family and the household.

For example: Singles, even Christian singles, have bought into the lie that they should live their lives, have fun and do what they want before they "settle down," get married and have a family. They accept as wise counsel, "Better to get it out of your system before you get married than after you are married." The concept is based on a number of lies like:

"I deserve to have fun and selfishly indulge myself because marriage and family life won't be fun."

"Once I get it 'out of my system,' I will be able to settle down with unbelievable discipline and spirituality." Baloney!

Other lies and teachings we must counteract have to do with the male/female emotional profile, work ethics, raising children, sexuality, and moral absolutes. In fact, American Christians need some straightening out because of the teaching they have received through the media, schools and their homes.

The Flaky Character Qualities of the People-1:12. "Even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.'" What a description! Their character was disgusting. We have the same problem.

  • What words would you use to describe Americans and American culture?
  • Who will teach us any different? (church/family)
  • Where are your models/teachers?

We have so few heroes to emulate, and too few teachers of character, ethics, relationships and morality from a Christian standpoint. We need help! Paul immediately offers two solutions to our dilemma in the book of Titus: to rebuke sharply, and to provide trained generational teaching and modeling in the local church. When the character of a culture is deteriorating and prominent belief systems are ruining households, we must rely on Paul's simple but effective approach. In this lesson we will try to combine both solutions-2:13-2:1.

In Titus 2:2-10, we see the specific relationships necessary for our healing and health, regardless of our situation-whether single, single parent, married, grandparent, etc. We are to begin by teaching godly characteristics to the older men-those whose children are grown and gone. 2:1-3—"You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good."

Notice the qualifiers in this section:

The Quality Qualifier. The kind of doctrine to be taught to all the groups listed here is qualified. "You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. The word "sound" is the same word from which we get our English word "hygiene," i.e., clean or healthy doctrine.

The Age Qualifiers. Older men and women are to received focused doctrinal teaching. Note that in verses 3 and 6, Paul used the word "likewise" to apply these standards equally to older men and women. Titus was to specifically teach both, with no gender discrimination. But what was meant by "older" in this context?

There are two possibilities: 1)People were considered young until past age 30; 2) The "older" person was one whose children were grown and gone-maybe in higher education. Which view is right? Though there are some good arguments for the first view, the second is the most likely and fits best with the biblical text. In our society, that includes a very broad span of ages, therefore, if this definition is correct, this passage addresses a far greater audience than senior citizens. Why is this group so significant?

First, they themselves need help, as many of the greatest problems with divorce, immorality, drug use, and alcoholism occur among those whose children are grown. Second, they have experience as parents and in life, having seen their children grow through all the stages into adulthood. (Some who are older have even seen their children marry and have children.)

Notice the qualities desired in the older man-v. 2. At least six qualities must be addressed and developed in this group of older men. "Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance." Paul teaches the older men that they are to be godly and have a number of specific characteristics and qualities, just as is expected of the spiritual leaders. I used to think when a Christian man got old, he would automatically be godly and mellow. Unfortunately, however, the church is full of grouchy, hard-to-get-along-with old men.What's the solution? You begin to be a godly old man by being a godly young man. Young men, if you want to know where you are going, this passage is a preview. It is never to early to start on this list!

First, older men are to be temperate. For one thing, they are to abstain from wine, not drinking or taking intoxicating substances. A man who is under the influence/control of alcohol is not in control of himself. This word also has another meaning- "being sober in terms of judgment or discernment," to be in control of your mental, emotional and spiritual faculties. Sometimes life's worst decisions are made after the kids are grown and gone, because middle age years can prevent us from seeing life ahead and recognizing that greatest service for God often occurs during this period of life. Men, it is not a time to go to sleep spiritually, or to start a long spiritual "coast." In 1 Timothy 3:2, the same word "temperate" applies to one's thinking, meaning "sound of mind;" one who follows sound reason and restrains his passion.

How does an older man/younger man know if he is temperate? It may be revealed by questions like:

 

  • Do you react to circumstances with a soberness/temperance of judgment, that really considers what God wants more than anything else?
  • Do you think soundly—with sound reason?
  • Do you know how to prayerfully come to a decision about your life and/or ministry?
  • Do you cope and think without the interference of any intoxicating or mind-altering substances?
  • Do you plan your life based on God's will and what He wants to do with you?
  • Are you stable and steadfast, reflecting a clear mind, no matter what happens to you?
A temperate person is also untouched by any slumberous or beclouding influence-I Thess. 5:4-8. "But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet." The word translated as self-control in this passage in the NIV is the same word translated as "temperate" in Titus 2.

The second quality desired in older men is to be worthy of respect—Titus 2:2. This involves living in such a way that others respect them because of their lifestyle. They are "worthy of respect" because they have earned it through the way they act and speak. They are honored among Christians and non-Christians alike for their character. Titus 1:7 ("Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless-not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined") is a great list of the qualities and characteristics of one worthy of respect. People listen to men like this. Ask yourself what qualities you respect in another person. Make another list by asking others the same question and then combine the lists. What does it reveal?

Third, the older man is to be self-controlled-2:2. Paul referred to this characteristic five times in Titus. (Note: "Self-control" is a more specific concept than "temperance," which is sometimes used as a synonym for self-control. Temperance refers to mental and emotional stability and reactions, while self-control zeroes in more specifically on our fleshly appetites, desires and impulses.) An older man, then, is not to be in bondage to fleshly desires, impulses, and passions-i.e., he is not to be a dirty old man. He should be in control of his anger, his sexuality, his physical body, his thought life, etc. He is not to be over-indulgent, but is to be in control of his life because he is committed to God. He must learn to bring his body under control. Even the Apostle Paul struggled to bring his body under control. "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (1 Cor. 9:27). Older men must be protected against excesses, as this control will be crucial if they are to influence younger men to be self-controlled as well.

Fourth, older men are to be sound in faith-2:2. To be "sound" means to be "in good health" (see: 2:1) I don't know why the definite article does not appear in this verse, because it does in the Greek; it should literally read: "they are to be healthy in the faith, healthy in love and healthy in patience." To be "sound in faith" focuses specifically on our attitudes toward God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Faith, of course, is a synonym for trust and belief, so to the extent that we have confidence in our Lord, we are spiritually healthy in the area of faith. If we are constantly in doubt and unbelief, we are certainly not "sound in faith." The true test of faith is determined, to a large extent, by our actions. Active, healthy faith cannot be passive, but must be obvious in our lives by what we say and do. That is why Paul could thank God for the Thessalonians' "work produced by faith" (1 Thess. 1:3) and why James wrote, "Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is deadShow me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do" (James 2:17-18).

Fifth, older men are to be sound in love; this is the hallmark of Christian maturity. Paul-referring to faith, hope, and love-clearly stated that the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:13). Why? Paul's definition of love clearly answers: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Cor.13:4-8). To be "sound in love," then, means to live like Christ, for these qualities of love characterized His life. In Paul's words to the Ephesians, we are to be "imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God"-Eph. 5:1.

Older men, finally, should be sound and healthy in endurance. In the New Testament, the concept of endurance (or patience)refers to a person unswerving in his commitment to Jesus Christ, no matter the problems and trials he faces. It literally means remaining under, bearing up under, holding out. What motivates this bulldog word? In order to exist, it must be aligned with "hope." In fact, Paul used the two words together in his letter to the Thessalonians when he thanked God for their "endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 1:3). One "sound in endurance," then, is a Christian who holds fast to what he believes, though he finds himself in the midst of many difficulties. According to Paul, this is not a natural quality of life. Even a "man of God" must pursue it (1 Tim. 6:11

Paul was particularly concerned about these six qualities in the lives of older men in the Cretan churches. Titus was to teach these men to become characterized by temperance, respect, and self-control and to be spiritually healthy in the areas of faith, love, and endurance.

In verse 6, Paul picks up his instruction to younger men. Here we begin to see the tie-in with the local church and spiritual leadership, between older and younger men. The younger men were to be taught something that they are not taught in their homes or in the culture. The same is true today in our nation of dysfunctional families; the church can become a safety net to many who have no other positive source of spiritual input, training, or encouragement.

Notice the qualities desired in the young man-v. 6. "Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us." In this passage Paul instructs Titus to do two things for the younger men-teach them self-control and set an example. Again he emphasizes the same quality of self-control that has been repeatedly taught, but here it is the only quality Paul wants Titus to specifically encourage. Why do you think that is the case? Self-control is the crux of and the best solution to the problems of young men. His focus shows how attuned to human nature he has been made by the Holy Spirit. He knows guys!

But Paul isn't finished with the young men. He also exhorts Titus to "set them an example by doing what is good." Why this added emphasis? Obviously, Paul knew that the young men in Crete, like men today, needed to be taught things that are exemplified in the life of the teacher/discipler. They needed models. What specifically is to be shown by example? Paul singles out three qualities that Titus should exemplify in his teaching ministry and lifestyle: integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech. Let's look at each of these qualities individually:

Integrity. The word Paul used here literally means to be "uncorrupt." Though it is difficult to say what Paul had in mind in this instance, I personally believe he is exhorting Titus to make sure he practices what he preaches, not to teach the young men one thing and live something else

Seriousness. Paul is referring to the quality in a person's life that earns him a right to be heard. Titus certainly could not expect young men his own age to respect him and take his words seriously, unless they saw the same degree of seriousness in his life. Again, Paul is emphasizing the importance of a Christian's total lifestyle, particularly for those responsible as spiritual leaders.

Soundness of speech. His content was to be carefully and accurately presented; otherwise, those who were in opposition to Christ and the "trustworthy message" would be able to attack Titus justifiably and hurt the cause of Christ.

 


How do we specifically apply this today? Several lessons emerge from this study.

Older men, you are desperately needed as examples and teachers of the younger men in this church. We can't afford to have you ride off into the sunset of spiritual retirement. Even if your life up to this point hasn't been exemplary, you can receive the necessary training and instruction to begin a new life of authentic Christianity and teaching. God doesn't find many perfect people! Are you willing? That is what is needed.

Take this list and begin to study it. Look up the supporting verses. Take advantage of the training we will provide as a church. Wives of older men, please encourage this. Children of Christian fathers, please encourage this as well. As a church we need to stand against society's total disregard and disrespect for those who should be our teachers. While many in their middle 40s think they are too young or too busy to have this kind of impact, many retired men think they are too old to offer this kind of meaningful mentoring and teaching.

Being taught good things does not make a person into a mature and effective Christian. Knowing the truth is absolutely essential in order to recognize and confront false doctrine and the lies of our culture, but we must go further than that. We must not only know the Scripture, but live the Scripture. If teaching doesn't end up impacting our lifestyle and our character, it won't be worth much to us.

People want and need examples of authentic Christianity lived out, and when they see such a person they will listen and follow. Parents, are you listening? Older men and women, are you listening? Younger men and women, are you following and listening?

If you are a single man attempting to function without association with the church, or have limited your associations in the church to single friends, then you will not only live in unnecessary pain and loneliness, but you will probably not experience the self-control God desires for you. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5), but my experience is that we need models of and encouragement toward self-control in order for it to be a reality. Young men, you must make yourselves available to spiritual leaders and older men to be taught and encouraged in self-control. If you are growing in self-control, this list for the older men also becomes a road map for you, showing you your destination if you are growing in the Lord. Take the steps necessary to set yourself on a spiritual journey of eventual influence.

Titus 2 Women Part 3

What Is the Goal of This Teaching?

The goal of all this teaching is the honor of God and His Word. "...so that no one will malign the word of God." When our lives fail to line up with what we teach, the world brands our entire basis of belief as invalid. Therefore, the outcome of not following this teaching in Titus 2 is that the Word of God will be dishonored. What does that look like? Time magazine printed this letter from a woman in November 1996: "I'm tired of hearing about what God said in the Bible. Who can prove that God has ever said anything? The Bible is simply a storybook written by scribes. Too many bloody wars, genocides, crusades, missionary atrocities, and persecutions have taken place because of 'God's word.'" (Time, 11/18/96)

Titus 2 Women Part 2

What are mature women to do with the teaching of Titus 2:2-5?

This leads us to the next section in this chapter. What are they to do with this teaching? They are to use it to train. Notice the qualities and training desired for the younger women—v. 6.

A Profile for Younger Women

Before we get to the specific training specified by Paul for the younger women, notice that he didn’t instruct Titus to take primary responsibility for teaching the younger women. This was a job for the older women. Why do you think he took this approach?

  • Titus was a young man and probably single. There are always inherent dangers involved when young, single men teach younger women, particularly married women, and especially in a culture like that of Crete.
  • What these young women needed to learn could best be learned through the modeling and observation of older women with whom they could identify.
  • The most efficient way to multiply ministry among women was for Titus to teach older women who in turn could train the younger. It was and is an excellent plan for discipling others.

In this passage Paul instructs Titus to teach the older women to train the younger women in the following ways:

To love their husbands—v.  4. One of the first things young women were to learn was to love their husbands. Why was this necessary?

Many of these women may have been married to men they really were not attracted to. In the Cretan culture, marriages were probably arranged by parents, regardless of romantic feelings.  Many women in the first century, as already stated, were used as marital conveniences to produce offspring. There was little or no real sense of commitment, security, or fondness under these circumstances.

This brings us to a very important observation. The common word meaning  “to love” in the New Testament is agapao. It refers to a love that does the right thing no matter what one’s feelings are. It was this kind of love that sent Jesus Christ to the cross, though in His humanity, He prayed in the garden that He might be able to avoid the experience. But He did the will of God because He knew this was the right thing to do, in  spite of His feelings.

However, the Greek word used by Paul in Titus 2:4 is phileo, a word used to describe the emotional dimensions of human relationships. It involves friendship and expresses delight and pleasure in doing something.  This is why agapao is not used in the Bible specifically to describe sexual love - particularly sexual responsibility. Sexual love involves emotions, and a person cannot be commanded to “feel” a certain way toward someone else. However, a person can be urged to do something in spite of his feelings. For example, the Bible says, “Husbands, love (in an agape sense) your wives,” or, more dramatically, “Love your enemies.” But one cannot force a person to feel positive when he feels negative. Thus Paul worded the statement to Titus very carefully: older women were to “urge (train) the younger women to love their husbands.”

This kind of love can be learned. And since the husband was now to love his wife as Christ loved the church - an unconditional agapao love - a wife would begin to discover a sense of security and emotional satisfaction that would make it possible for her to respond with warm feelings of attraction and commitment.  One of the best ways to learn to respond this way would be to see it demonstrated.  So if a younger wife sees a loving friendship in an older couple, take the woman aside: Ask how they developed a friendship with their mate or how they work at their friendship?  What are the things they do to make their friendship mutually satisfying?  Also, notice how they affirm and value their friendship. Once true friendship is observed, mimic it and learn from it.

By the way, this is a wonderful encouragement to a single person.  What does this instruction say about your relationships?  Develop a friendship with the opposite sex, not a sexually driven, emotionally intensive relationship. Learning to develop friendships is not only more satisfying now, but in the future.  If it’s God's will that you marry, a mutually satisfying godly friendship is the basis for a lasting and love-filled marriage.  It also sets a healthy atmosphere for the whole household when children are present.  As Susan Hunt writes, “A wise woman will help a young woman see the good qualities in her husband and appreciate them.” And here’s a key principle for young moms: “We must tell young women that the most powerful thing they can do for their children is to love their daddy.” (Hunt, ibid.)

To love their children—v. 4b. This phrase actually comes from one Greek word (philoteknos), which  literally means to be “child-lovers.” Again, as in our previous instruction on women learning to “love their husbands,” Paul was referring to a phileo love, which definitely includes the emotional dimension in human  relationships. These women were to learn to “love their children,” that is, to have positive feelings toward their offspring.

Their difficulty in loving their children probably relates to the same barriers as loving their husbands. Bearing children as a result of “dutiful performance” doesn’t set a very good stage for a love relationship between mother and children.  Resentment toward a husband can be easily transferred to the children.

Even in our culture, loving children is far from “natural.”  Do you recall the young woman who recently left her newborn in a dumpster?  Thankfully its cries were heard.  How about Andrea Yates, who in 2001 drowned her five children?  More and more frequently, we hear of women killing their own children.  Abortion (including partial-birth abortions), neglect, and abuse are rampant.

But this doesn’t speak only to the extremes. Christian moms need help loving their children, too. They don’t know all they need to know to raise them. They need help balancing their minds and hearts, listening to God’s Word and His Spirit to raise godly children in a very dark world. They need older role models to help them see the value of spending time with and investing in their kids and other children as well.  Even young women without children need to learn how to love them; to be trustworthy and caring role models to friends’ children, nieces and nephews, children in their churches.

To be self-controlled—v.  5. Once again we encounter one of the qualities of life Paul reiterated most often. Like all Christians, young women were to be in control of their physical, psychological, and spiritual faculties. They were not to be in bondage to human nature’s desires, impulses, and passions. This is a basic reason why Paul instructed young widows to remarry—1 Tim. 5:11-14.

As in Crete, virtually nothing in our culture (except maybe getting thin and healthy) encourages self-control. Young Christian women need help with delayed gratification, self-denial, and moderation.

To be pure—v. 5b.  Closely associated with the quality of self-control is purity. Marital fidelity in the Cretan culture was not a common practice. If a husband was getting his sexual satisfaction at a local house of prostitution, why should his wife be faithful to him?  The message of Christ that Paul and Titus preached to the people on the island of Crete cut straight across this kind of thinking. It was a new message, one of purity, of loyalty in marriage, and of marital fidelity.

Peter emphasized this quality of life for women who were married to unsaved husbands; it was to serve as a divine means to bring their husbands to salvation.  Thus Peter wrote, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without talk by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence  of your lives”—1 Peter 3:1,2.

How do young Christian women observe modesty? What is an appropriate approach to intimacy within our marriages? How does a young single woman conduct herself? These are huge questions that, in some cases, only an older woman can answer honestly and biblically!

To be busy at home—v. 5c.  From a 21st century perspective, this may be one of the most controversial qualities stated in this list. However, most of the problems can be resolved by a proper interpretation of Scripture. Paul had the same concern for young Ephesian widows who got “into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house." And, wrote Paul, “not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to.” Consequently, Paul counseled these young women “to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander”—1 Tim. 5:13-14.

Therefore, this call to be busy at home is not mundane, but sacred. The Greek words “to manage their homes” convey the meaning of a “house master,” a total ruler. The woman is to be the queen of the functional workings of her home.

Does this rule out working outside the home? This is unclear. So it appears it’s up to each family to make that decision prayerfully and wisely.  But what is clear is that the home should be every Christian woman’s priority, and the phrase “busy at home” is the key.  (Should it be the husband’s priority as well?  Of course!)

Why don’t churches offer “elective” classes in the basics of cooking, gardening, baking, parenting, sewing, household management, etc.? This focus on the home is not extraneous, but central to a woman’s impact in the kingdom, and many of the young women in local churches may not have had a good example in their homes growing up.  All the more reason for older women to help in this training and by their own example.

How did the wise woman in Proverbs 31 exemplify this industriousness both in the home and outside it? She’s amazing! It says, she “works with eager hands...considers a field and buys it...her trading is profitable... makes linen garments and sells them...she provides food for her family...her arms are strong for her tasks...her lamp does not go out at night...she makes coverings for her bed...she watches over the affairs of her household.” I would guess she had fantastic training in her home, extended family and from other mentors!

To be kind—v. 5d. The basic Greek word agathos, translated “kind” in the NIV, refers to excellence in any respect, by which someone or something may be said to be distinguished, or good. No doubt Dorcas stands out in Scripture as a unique illustration of the kind of woman Paul was describing.  The widows who had gathered to mourn her death held in their hands the “robes and other clothes” that Dorcas had made for the poor while she was still with them. She was a kind and generous woman who used her sewing skills to meet others’ needs—Acts 9:36-43.

One of the most elaborate biblical commentaries, however, on what Paul had in mind when he instructed older women to teach younger women to be good or kind appears in his first letter to Timothy. Here he was dealing with the problem of widows who were old enough to be put on the church rolls for help. “No woman,” wrote Paul, “may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good (kind) deeds.”

Then Paul explains what these good deeds were: “...bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds”—1 Tim. 5:9-10.

Obviously, many of these “kind” expressions were culturally related to the needs of that day.  They are, however, illustrative of what Paul meant when he said that a mature Christian woman is “to be kind.”

Kindness is foundational to so many endeavors.

Paul tells Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:9-10, “I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. 10] For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.” (NLT)

Women in our day are often not expected to be kind. They are told (or it’s implied) to go get what they want.  If they can be nice along the way, great, but it’s not a prerequiste.  In contrast, the Bible commands us all to be kind in our overt and kind actions.

To be submissive—v. 5e.  Many Christians (and non-believers particularly) misinterpret what Paul and other writers of Scripture meant when they emphasized that wives were to be subject to their husbands.

  • First, the Bible teaches that submission should be a mutual, reciprocal expression among all Christians. In other words, it’s not a word used only for women. Eph. 5:21 says: “...submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
  • Second, submission doesn’t mean that wives should never express their opinions or feelings. To believe that it does severely violates all the “one another” concepts in the New Testament.
  • Third, submission doesn’t mean a wife should indulge in sin because her husband demands it. There are times when all Christians, including wives, must take seriously the requirement to “obey God rather than men”—Acts 5:19.
  • Fourth, it’s best, then, when it’s a willing choice.  It should not be imposed/forced.  (See Philemon 1:9; Col. 3:19; 1 Pet. 3:7.)
  • Fifth, it doesn’t cancel out our equality—Gal. 3:28; Heb. 5:7; 1 Peter 3:7.
  • Finally, submission certainly doesn’t mean that a wife should subject herself to physical and psychological abuse.  The laws of both men and God protect a person from this kind of abuse.  Submission doesn’t give the right to anyone to abuse, mistreat, be harsh, or disrespect!  (See:  How to have Happiness at Home or at Work—Part 1, Colossians 3:18-4:1, by Bob Stone.)

Submission refers to an attitude of “teachableness” toward other members of the body of Christ. All of us are to be involved in this reciprocal relationship. However, the Bible goes a step beyond and emphasizes submission on the part of wives toward their husbands.  This is a consistent concept throughout the Bible, even antedating the Fall. A woman was not to dominate or control her husband, but rather respect him as her God-ordained protector and leader.  (See Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18.)

This concept is still true within Christian marriage. However, it must be pointed out that when a husband “loves his wife as Christ loved the church” (Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:19), submission becomes a very natural and easy thing for a wife to do. In fact, if both partners are committed to Jesus Christ, it’s possible for a couple to experience on a day-to-day basis the benefits of equality.

In other words, a husband will not have to operate as “the boss.” God never intended that he do so. He said that Jesus Christ is to be the husband’s example, and His lifestyle for the body of Christ involved unselfishness, humility, and a sacrificial spirit.   The “love” husbands and wives should have for each other is described this way in Scripture:  1) Love is INITIATING—1 John 4:19; 2) Love is HUMBLE—Matt. 23:12; Phil. 2:8; 3); Love is TENDER—Matt. 23:37; 4) Love is SERVING/ACTING—John 13:1;  5) Love is VERBAL—Matt. 17:5;  6) Love is NOT HARSH—Col. 3:19b; 1 Cor. 13:4-8,13.

The average woman will find submission a very easy matter when her husband emulates Christ.  In the book Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, shows “love and respect” in a circle he calls, “The Energizing Cycle.”  He says “a husband’s love motivates a wife’s respect, and in turn, that motivates his love.”

We’re talking here about “voluntary submission” from a spirit of obedience to Jesus—Eph. 5:21. “Picture it as a ‘spiritual greenhouse’ where under her husband’s protection, provision, and with his blessing, a woman is encouraged to develop her full potential... The world tells women that submission is foolish and renders us powerless. Scripture tells us submission gives access to the power and protection of God.” (Hunt, ibid.)

It’s true, however, that not every marriage is ideal. For example, there are unbelieving husbands, as there were in the New Testament.  It’s in such a marriage that a woman may have to submit under circumstances that are not to her liking. Hopefully, God will use her attitude of willing and loving submission to bring her husband to Christ so that he, in turn, may eventually love as Christ loved. This is the whole thrust of Peter’s emphasis in his first epistle—1 Pet. 3:1-6.

1 Peter 3:3-6 says: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.  For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Is fear holding young women back from submitting to their husbands? You’d better believe it!

The result of good training, on the other hand, is a far-reaching blessing

If it’s faithfully and consistently done, the result is that the opposition will be put to shame and ultimately silenced—2:5.  We should follow this instruction in Titus 2, “…so that no one will malign the word of God.”

That younger women would live lives of praise to God is another goal of spiritual mothering: God’s glory is the ultimate purpose - us desiring to make Him look good. “Once God’s glory is our purpose, then we have a center point to which we can relate each decision and each situation....when a woman is absorbed with God’s glory, she will interpret her life according to His truth.”  When it all comes down, it’s all about moving from a “me” worldview to a biblical worldview.  When God's glory is our purpose, we will desire to serve Him, and Paul is helping Titus and us see how women will be best equipped for service in the kingdom.

It takes partnership between generations, coaching, and an older woman coming alongside a younger one to hold out a hand on a dark path. There is great potential for a revival of faith and virtue among women which would profoundly impact a watching nation. Susan Hunt explains, “When we reach women, we will reach the spiritual tempo of our culture.”

Mary is a great model for the younger women amongst us.  It appears she milked every moment, and was teachable. She sought out Elizabeth. Often older women are willing, but they feel it would be presumptuous to approach a younger woman. So don’t be shy, younger women. It may take your initiation.  It has been said that “giving birth and nurturing are two of the most profound and noble ways God enables women to glorify Him. Not every woman can give biological birth, but every Christian woman can enter the high calling of spiritual reproduction and motherhood.”

Application Questions and Actions

A Profile for Titus 2 Women

As with men in Titus 2, Paul was first of all concerned with those women who were older, not just spiritually, but chronologically. Paul wanted them to be godly examples to the younger women. Paul is obviously dealing with some special problems among women in the Cretan culture, but as with the qualifications for elders and for men in general, these characteristics we have just considered emerge as a criteria for measuring Christian maturity among women of all time, both old and young.

Lessons for Older Women

1.     To be “reverent in the way they live”

One of the major problems among believers today, and since the beginning of the Christian era, is hypocrisy; that is, claiming one thing and living something else.  The results are devastating, particularly in the lives of those who know us well.  And those who are affected most are younger people.  As someone has said, “What you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say.”  Unfortunately, this is often true among Christians.  It does very little good to verbalize something we aren’t living.  Generally speaking, people will not “hear” us under these circumstances; they will only “see” us.

PERSONAL LIFE-RESPONSE QUESTIONS: To what extent are you living a consistent Christian life-style?  Are you “worthy of respect”?  What do younger women really see when they observe your behavior - your attitude toward your husband, your children, your neighbors, and your enemies?

2.     “Not to be slanderers”

No one will deny the devastating effects of slander and malicious talk.  All of us, if we are honest with ourselves, will confess that on occasions we have resorted to this kind of behavior.  What we must recognize, however, is that in our more sophisticated culture, we sometimes camouflage this kind of verbal attack on others with “sugar-coated” barbs.  In fact, we can actually make people feel we are being kind when we are being unkind.  In some instances, we may even be rationalizing our own motives.

PERSONAL LIFE-RESPONSE QUESTIONS: Before sharing information about anyone, ask yourself, “Will this build the person up”?  “Is it the most merciful thing to say”?  “Have I ever felt envy toward this person”?  If so, “Are my motives pure”?

SUGGESTIONS: Some people develop a very “cutting” and “piercing” quality in their voice.  Ask someone to evaluate your tone of voice and the inflection you use when you communicate with others.

3.     Not “addicted to much wine”

There’s a literal application of Paul’s statement to us today, even in the sophisticated American culture. And with out so-called sophistication has come a “sophistication” in indulgence.  The variety of addictive kinds of beverage has multiplied and been made attractive by all forms of media.  There are, of course, other ways in which we can demonstrate a lack of self-control such as overeating, overspending, oversleeping, overworking, or overindulging in anything!

PERSONAL LIFE-RESPONSE QUESTIONS: Am I controlled by any habits that were a part of my non-Christian lifestyle?  What are my motives for doing what I do?  Are my problems psychological or purely habitual?  For example, some people overeat when they are under stress. Some people are chain smokers because they are nervous.  Some people over-drink because they are anxious.  Some people over-spend on clothes and items for the home because they feel inferior and insecure.

4.     “To teach what is good”
As Christians, we should always teach what is good (not what is bad or evil), both by our overall life-style and by what we say.

PERSONAL LIFE-RESPONSE QUESTIONS: How much is your overall life-style reflecting the value systems of Scripture?  Have you earned the right to teach others the Bible by first of all applying these truths to your own life?

Lessons for Younger Women

1.     “To love their husbands”

At least two significant lessons emerge from the study of “biblical love.”  First, actions are to take precedence over feelings.  In fact, in many instances, positive feelings emerge in the process of doing what we know we must do.  Second, feelings of affection can be learned. Paul certainly implied this in his statement to Titus.  In most instances, affection is learned through example and experience.

PERSONAL LIFE-RESPONSE QUESTIONS: As a married (or widowed) woman, to what extent are you loving your husband (or did you love your husband) at the “action” level?  To what extent are you attempting to learn to love more deeply at the “feeling” level?  Are you (were you) friends?  Some people do not learn to love at the feeling level because they won’t deal with feelings of anger and bitterness. How are your feelings?

2.     “To love their children”

Every mother, particularly every young mother, at times experiences feelings of resentment toward her children (or her husband that may impact her children).  These feelings are normal.  However, constant resentment indicates a serious problem that needs to be resolved.

PERSONAL LIFE-RESPONSE QUESTIONS: What are you doing to handle the normal feelings of resentment?  Do you get sufficient opportunity to get away from these pressures on a periodic basis?  Do you need help balancing your mind and heart, as well as listening to God’s Word and His Spirit? Have you shared any deep feelings of frustration and anxiety with your husband and/or a sympathetic friend e.g., a mature women who will pray with you?

3.     “To be self-controlled”

How are you coping with delayed gratification, self-denial and moderation?  Have you found the joy of putting off the old and putting on the new?  As you put off the negative, what are you putting on its place?

A PERSONAL LIFE-RESPONSE QUESTION: Are you controlling any inapproproate (undisciplined) desires to eat, drink, spend money and engage in any other worldly habits?

4.     “To be “pure”

Remaining pure is becoming an increasing problem for women in our culture.  The new sexual ethic (which is really the old sexual ethic that existed many years ago in Crete) is making it more difficult, especially for young women, to maintain a high level of morality. Everywhere we look there are blatant suggestions for illegitimate sexual behavior.

A PERSONAL LIFE-RESPONSE QUESTION: To what extent are you maintaining a life of moral purity? Hear Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”—Phil. 4:8.

5.     “To be busy at home”

A PERSONAL LIFE-RESPONSE QUESTION: The important thing is not whether you’re working outside the home, going to school, or pursuing a professional career.  Rather, it is this:  Are you neglecting your priorities as a wife and/or a mother?  If you have chosen “to manage your home; be a house master; be the queen of the functional workings of your home,” then you have a responsibility to fulfill those obligations if you are to indeed walk in the will of God.  How’s that working out for you?

6.     “To be kind”

PERSONAL LIFE-RESPONSE QUESTIONS: Are you a kind person, helping others find fulfillment in life?  Are you kind to all people—both Christians and non-Christians? Paul’s exhortation is, “Let us not become weary in doing good (in being kind), for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good (be kind) to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”—Gal. 6:9-10.

7.     “To be subject to their husbands”

A PERSONAL-RESPONSE QUESTION: How submissive are you to other people in leadership? As we saw in our application of this phrase, Paul is not urging a blind submission.  The ultimate goal is what Ephesians 5:21 says: “...submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  How do you respond to the following quote?  “Picture Biblical submission (when it is done right) as a ‘spiritual greenhouse’ where under her husband’s protection, provision, and with his blessing, a woman is encouraged to develop her full potential... The world tells women that submission is foolish and renders us powerless. Scripture tells us that submission gives access to the power and protection of God.” (Hunt, ibid.)

Further Application

What are some of the areas where a Titus 2 woman might train a younger woman?  The passage says: “Then they can train the younger women” that is, if they are living as they should, they will be able to communicate effectively. Not only will they know God’s Word, but they will know how biblical principles apply to specific situations. What situations?

Here’s a beginning list for one-to-one and/or group training times:

  • finances/budget
  • how to lovingly and wisely discipline a child
  • domestic skills - cooking, gardening, sewing, shopping, decorating on a budget, etc.
  • how to build good and nurturing relationships with in-laws
  • how to deal with intrusive and negative relationships with parents and in-laws
  • how to be a soccer mom who keeps all her priorities in balance
  • helping your child choose good friends and how a mother can contribute to that process
  • how to relate to a child’s peer group teacher at church and his/her teaching
  • building a life of meaningful hospitality
  • appropriate social graces for all occasions
  • how to grow a caring heart in a child
  • how to help a child lovingly respond to the needy of the world and their own town/neighborhoods/ schools/church (see “A CAR for all Generations”—Proverbs 31 by Bob Stone.)

Discussion Questions

  1. Have you ever had a “Titus 2” relationship with someone? What kind of experience was/is it?
  2. What’s the value to a young woman of having an older woman in her life, as opposed to simply relying on peers for support and wisdom?
  3. What, if anything, about this type of relationship is intimidating for you, either as the older or the younger woman?
  4. What are the cultural messages you have most easily bought into? How could an older woman help a younger one see the deception in that message?
  5. Which of the older woman’s qualifications (teach what is good, be reverent, not be a slanderer, not be addicted to much wine) will need the most work in your life? What would be your first step in allowing God to change you?
  6. What should always be our ultimate goal in pursuing a mentor relationship according to verse 5?
  7. Which of the mandates for younger women most needs to be trained in you?
  8. How would you go about initiating a Titus 2 relationship? What are the obstacles you face personally to doing so?

Bibliography

Getz, Gene A. The Measure of a Christian. Regal Books: Ventura, CA, 1983.

Getz, Gene and Elaine. The Measure of a Woman. Gospel Light Pub.: Ventura, CA, 2004 (rev.).

Hocking, David. “Titus: Memo to a Godly Leader.” Biola University: La Mirada, CA, 1989.

Hunt, Susan. Spiritual Mothering. Crossway Books: 1992.

Kraft, Vickie. Women Mentoring Women. Moody Press: Chicago, IL, 1992.

Kent, Homer A., Jr. The Pastoral Epistles. Moody Press: Chicago, IL, 1982.

Draper, James T., Jr. Titus: Patterns for Church Living. Tyndale House: Wheaton, IL, 1978.

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Love and Respect.  Integrity Publishers: Franklin, TN, 2004.

Titus 2 Women Part 1

Introduction

It can be an unnerving experience to stumble down a path you know should be leading you home, on a dark night. Not only are you afraid of danger with every step, but you are not altogether sure you will end up where you want to be. This culture is a far darker place for women today than a dark path on the most moonless of nights, and they need someone with a flashlight up ahead, someone who knows the path. They need a mentor.

Caregivers Seminar:

A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside. "Your son is here," she said to the old man. She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened. Heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young man in the Marine Corps uniform standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement. The nurse brought a chair so he could sit alongside the bed.

Spiritual Friendships Pt. 2

In our first session on friendship, we looked carefully at the following important principles of building solid friendships:

  1. Friendship must be God-centered.
  2. Friendship includes the formation of a commitment/covenant accompanied by a tangible sign(s) of that commitment.
  3. Friendship is dependent on faithfulness and love.
  4. Friends show candor and give counsel.
  5. Purity of heart and gracious speech will make friends.
  6. True friendship is reciprocal and displays the following character qualities: nonjudgmental, accepting, genuine, self-disclosing, trusting, loving, caring, committed, strong, firm, empathic, willing to listen, loyal, and able to compromise.
  7. Friendship is listening to the heart, helping a friend to understand his heart.
  8. Friendship is getting in touch with your friend's unique spirituality, with what God is doing in his life.
  9. Friendship is getting in touch with the spiritual questions your friend might be asking at each stage in his/her life.

That's what godly, committed and covenantal friendship is all about. But just as important is that we know what are the inappropriate expressions of friendship.

Spiritual Friendships Pt. 1

Qualities That Build Friendships

What are the effects of friendlessness on men and women?

Today people are building fewer friendships and the result is having a destructive effect on many. Before we discuss the specific effects, the following letter addressed to an insurance company illustrates how we need the help of others and why we should not try to function alone. The author is unknown. We will call the letter "Trying to do the job alone."

Resurrection: Vicious Hoax or Fantastic Fact?

How important is the resurrection to us? Josh McDowell has said, "The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon the minds of men and women, or it is the most fantastic fact of history."

How can I know the Bible is an accurate source of information about Jesus?

Here is a typical conversation between two people about the Bible:

The Bible is a lot of made-up stories. Everyone knows it was made up hundreds of years after Jesus lived... if He ever actually lived at all. Besides, it has been altered through the ages with each new translation.

How does the number of transcripts Christians have compare to some of the other ancient writings like those of Plato or Homer?

This is very interesting! The copies of other ancient manuscripts are often many hundreds of years later than the originals. Sir Fredric Kenyon, one of the greatest authorities in the field of New Testament textual criticism, adds: "Scholars are satisfied that they possess substantially the true text of the principle Greek and Roman writers whose works have come down to us of Sophocles, of Thucydides, or Cicero, or Virgil; yet our knowledge of their writings depends on a mere handful of manuscripts (in some of the Greek & Roman writings, we have only a few copies), whereas the manuscripts of the New Testament are counted by hundreds, and even thousands." The New Testament has 5,300 known Greek manuscripts available.

Do we get all our information about Jesus' existence just from the Bible?

No! Both Jewish and Roman writers, including Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Pliny refer to Jesus as well. None of these men were Jesus' followers, and they mention Him only in passing, but they had no doubt about His existence or impact. Some people have relegated Jesus to the level of Peter Pan, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy.

  • But today, 2,000 years later, the only real way to keep believing that He belongs to the land of Fairy Tales is to close our minds to hard historical facts.
  • No serious scholar doubts the existence of Jesus as an historical figure.

The real question is not, "Did Jesus exist?" but "Who was He?"

A recent survey by the Barna Research Group of Glendale, California, reveals how confused people are about who Jesus was. According to the survey, traditional Christian beliefs are in decline:

If God is so good, why doesn't He wipe out suffering?

This is a question we cannot completely answer, because we don't know all God's purposes and plans.

If God is so good, why doesn't He wipe out all the causes of wrong?

The truth is, it is because He is so good that He has not done so.

Some might say, "Okay then, why doesn't God make us good?"

"If He made us do the right things, then all our problems would be over."
But when you think about it, life without freedom to choose the way we want to live is not really much of a life at all.
  • God made a decision to create freedom, even though it would lead to pain and suffering.
  • This constitutes a value judgment: freedom was more important than the avoidance of evil.

Why did God choose freedom for us?

We do not know the whole reason, but we know part of the answer. Personhood requires freedom.

What about natural disasters like floods and earthquakes? These natural disasters are not the direct result of human choice, are they? Aren't they God's responsibility?

These natural disasters are not the direct result of human choice, are they? The Bible says that the whole of creation was actually broken because of mankind's broken relationship with God—Rom. 1:18-21; 8:19-23. We are not living in the perfect world God intended for us. Of course, we are not personally responsible for earthquakes, but the Bible claims that the human race as a whole is responsible for the fact that the world is in a mess.

Don't all roads lead to God?

  1. "All religions lead to God.
  2. "It is up to you what you make of Christianity."
  3. "Is Christianity the 'only way'?"
  4. "The important thing is to be sincere."
  5. "Why do Christians think they are right all the time?"
  6. "Isn't it a bit arrogant for Christians to insist they are right and everyone else is wrong?"
  7. "Christianity is just 'one way' among many ways."

Several years ago my wife and I went to the British Isles. I had a great time, but the most difficult part for me emotionally was driving in Great Britain. I would never drive in London, but when we got back from Ireland, the rail was on strike, so we had no choice but to rent a car and drive through the Cotswalds, i.e., the countryside.

Don't all the major world religions point to the same God?

In an age of relativism, people want to think their view of right and wrong is as good as anyone else's, as long as it is sincere.

Let's take a look at just three of the major religions in the world:

What does it mean exactly, that the way to a relationship with God is through Jesus?

The story of Jesus centers around what happened to Him on the cross.

Everywhere you go, you see the symbol of the cross: sometimes empty, sometimes with Jesus hanging on it. People wear crosses around their necks and in their ears, and they hang them outside churches.

Questions about Suicide

Here's a summary of your questions and comments:

"Is suicide the ultimate sin? I know of a few people who have committed suicide and I wonder, can those who have committed suicide find a heavenly home? This troubles me as I hate to imagine anyone in hell. I am so glad I have my Jesus."

First of all, I want you to know I am sorry for your pain. The pain of losing a friend/acquaintance to suicide is very traumatic. I want to remind you, Jesus made it a priority to befriend people who felt the kind of pain you're feeling, and to help them find healing. They included a prostitute abused by men, a leper outcast by society, and countless others who suffered from loneliness, fear, and rejection. Jesus was a friend they could count on when no one else seemed to care. He was someone who loved and understood them—just like He loves and understands you.

A Case Study on Suicide

Eric's dad died when Eric was 15. They had been very close, so when his mom remarried about a year later, Eric had a hard time adjusting. His stepdad talked about how much God loved him, but Eric didn't want to hear it... just like he didn't want to hear the stranger in the school assembly say things get better; that suicide isn't any answer. Eric had lived through three years of anger, pain, and emptiness looking for better. It didn't exist.

Questions about Battering

Should we really turn the other cheek in every circumstance?

One of the most difficult applications of Matthew 5:38-42 is in the area of husband and wife battering. What is the Christian response to this problem? This passage states: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' but I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Does that mean the one who is battered is not to resist, and provide a fresh target every time the abuser wants one? What is the most appropriate response? With the entire teaching and principles of "Responding to an Evil Person" in mind, the following is an attempt to apply that teaching to this tragic problem in many homes. These verses do not give the total response, so we will have to compare Scripture with Scripture to arrive at an answer. Here are general guidelines.

Questions about Shyness

Question: You have asked me to reflect a little bit about shyness and how you might help a coworker who is extremely shy. I am asked about this subject frequently, as people know there was a time in my life when I was very shy. Since that time, I have discovered shyness is not a negative thing. One can be born with a certain genetic predisposition to shyness, and there are environmental factors and modeling by parents and peers that can also affect a person's self-esteem and shyness. Beyond those factors, however, there is something surprising about shyness that most people do not understand.

How should we respond to an evil person?

Matthew 5:38-42

When a person's rights are violated, it's all too common to respond in retaliation. The Pharisees of Christ's day, for instance, were so bent on revenge that they sidestepped the clear teaching of the law and took the administration of justice out of the courts and into their own hands. They saw it as a matter of right and duty to personally take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and, in some, cases go beyond that.

What is a Christian?

There are certainly a lot of opinions about the definition of a Christian:

Part Five: What kinds of people miss the healing benefits of wise counsel?

What kinds of people miss the healing benefits of wise counsel?

Not all counseling is effective. The failure may not be with the counselor, but with the one seeking counsel. Before we identify six types of people who lose the benefit of counseling, we must note that occasionally a person's problem is organic in nature. That person may need physical help—the attention of a medical doctor. With that in mind, let's now identify the ones upon whom counseling has minimal effect:

Part Four: What are the qualities of the person who can help? (cont.)

Another quality of an effective encourager, an extension of being a good listener, is to be

slow to speak

Proverbs 12:18; 13:3; 17:27-28; 29:20.

Part Three: What are the qualities of the person who can help?

What are the qualities of the person who can help?

In order to determine that, let's begin with a simple test. This will tell us how effective we will be as helpers, encouragers, and counselors to our friends and family members.

Part Two: Why is wise and healing counsel needed?

Why is wise and healing counsel needed?

To help a person understand his heart

Proverbs 20:5: "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out."

Part One: What is meant by "wise counsel" in the Old Testament?

I can vividly remember the first time I heard about Solomon and his wisdom in Sunday School. It made quite an impression on me because of the way our teacher introduced the subject, asking the class, "If you had three wishes and could have anything you wanted, what would you choose?" My potential list was filled with things that would gladden any boy's heart, but I believe I finally narrowed it down to three. I wanted a bicycle, money and fame. After the members of the class offered their wish lists, our teacher told us about how Solomon had a similar opportunity to choose, and chose wisdom above everything else. I was deeply affected by that class. I went home that day and prayed: "God, that makes sense to me. If I'm wise, I'll get wisdom and anything else I want as well—including a bike." So I asked for wisdom, and it has since been my consistent prayer.

The Wisdom Book

A topical study can be a very exciting process, as a person goes to the Scripture to find answers to their problems. But certain rules and procedures should be followed. Typically the way such a study begins is by looking up a biblical word in the concordance that represents the contemporary problem or need they have. Then they list the references for that word and try to draw conclusions and answers from the references. More often than not, however, these studies will lead to errors in interpretation and application. 

A Topical Study Example: A Pro-Life Perspective

A second example of what a Topical Study might yield, this text illustrates the results of an extensive topical study on this difficult subject. Don't be intimidated by the length or the breadth of this study. Few topical studies will be this extensive. Studying just a few passages will yield wonderful results.

Where Honest Questions Are Entertained

Grab a cup of coffee and let's talk...

How to lead an effective small group or program.
Character training for seasoned men and younger men.
Training for seasoned women in ministry to younger women. In three parts.
How to be a people helper.
How to develop and keep quality friends.

Where can we get answers to some tough questions about Christianity and God?

The answers to the following questions are not intended to be exhaustive, but hopefully they will establish a beginning point for dialogue. Please feel free to respond back, or to check out some of the links at the end for more answers to your questions.

The questions listed below are answered in a running dialogue. It is probably better to read the whole document to see your question in the context of other difficult questions, because many answers are built upon previous answers.

Training for Friend-to-Friend Counseling.
How to do a topical study so that our problems are matched with accurate Scriptural answers. A very complete example of a topical study on worry and anxiety will illustrate the process.