Challenge Day 18

Today’s Inspiration. When you’re an endurance runner, it’s likely that somewhere along the way you’ll experience injury. Injuries can occur for any number of reasons, but there were two in particular that took me out of the running the first year I attempted to train for a marathon, mere weeks before the race: misaligned hips and poor form. For me, the problems manifested in severe pain in my left knee. I limped back to my car after completing only 9 miles of the 20-mile training run and my knee protested any further attempts to run for the next several weeks. My hips and my form had defeated me.

But here’s the thing. I love to run. And when I couldn’t run, when my body wouldn’t let me, I hated it. So I sought out ways to keep going. It turns out that what I needed, besides time to heal, was correction. I needed to be corrected.

The Greek root for the word correction used in 2 Timothy 3:16 means “a straightening up again, i.e. rectification” (that’s from Bible Hub).

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (NIV)

I needed to be straightened up again. But I didn’t figure this out on my own.

A few weeks after my injury, I started a months-long process of physical therapy at a place that specialized in working with athletes. It was there that I learned my hips weren’t aligned—something correctable, but I needed others—experts trained in knowing what to do—to help me. These experts, the physical therapists, worked with my muscles, pulling them back into alignment through massage; they taught me how to recognize the misalignment by assessing my posture; and they taught me how to exercise in ways that would minimize and correct the error. My job was to show up—to endure the corrective (often painful) massages, and to practice the exercises they taught me, both in their presence where they could watch and correct me and at home.

And then, another year later, I went back: this time I underwent correction to prevent injury, not to heal from it. I went for a running coach who worked with current and former physical therapy patients. He focused on runners’ form, and this was just what I needed. As a heel striker who tended to roll to the outer edges of my feet when I tired, I had been inflicting injury upon myself. But by working to correct my form with a coach, I learned how to run properly and how to recognize when my muscles tired and my form started slipping. And I was able to train for, run, and complete a marathon.

The author of Hebrews likens the Christian life to training and running a race (Hebrews 12), and just like a runner, there will be times in our lives when we will need correction. Paul says the Bible—all Scripture—is useful for that. For correcting ourselves, for correcting others, for letting others help correct us (this last one has a lot to do with rebuking and teaching, too).

Beige owl salt/pepper shaker sitting next to a red and orange owl mug on a bookshelf. Photo text: Challenge Day 18, Bible-corrected. #writinglifeaugustchallenge

Today’s Challenge. Today your challenge is to pray and ask God to show you if there is anything in your life that needs correcting—and then to listen. Listen to what the Lord has to tell you, and seek out answers—correction—from the Bible in any area he puts on your heart. If you need to, seek out a friend or mentor who can help you in that area, who can work with you to correct the error.

Today’s Participation. Think back to a time you’ve needed to be corrected: Perhaps you always thought the lyrics to a song were different than they actually are, or perhaps you attempted to put together IKEA furniture without following the instructions and ended up with extra pieces. Can you relate this to needing correction in your walk with God? Start a conversation about the concept with a friend using that example, come up with a fun way to depict the need for correction and post it online using #writinglifeaugustchallenge (friend/follow me @rhondalorraineblog if you want me to see it), or simply tell a story about it in the comments below.

Challenge Day 17

Today’s Inspiration. My son is at the age that he loves to please us and hates to disappoint us. He is six (nearly seven), compassionate, sensitive to others’ feelings, affectionate, and tender hearted. When I have to rebuke him, the realization that he has in some way disappointed me, has somehow done something wrong, shows on his little face. His face crumples and there are almost inconsolable tears, and he tries to hide his face behind his hands but longs to be hugged and held.

My son doesn’t yet know the word rebuke, but if he did I’m quite sure he wouldn’t like it. In fact, he dreads the thought of it.

Aren’t so many of us the same?

I don’t hear the word rebuke very often these days, even in Christian circles. I’m guessing it would be accurate to say that it’s not a very popular word, since it has to do with calling someone out when they’re in the wrong, or have done something wrong. The dictionary defines it as “to criticize sharply.” And honestly, who wants that? Or who wants to do that to someone who isn’t your child, but your brother or sister in Christ? (Some people don’t even want to do it to their own children!)

But sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes, we need to be the spoken-out-loud voice that God’s Spirit has been whispering (even shouting) within our brother’s or sister’s spirit. Thankfully, for those times when it is necessary, God has given us some instruction for how to go about doing this—including the entire reason we’re taking about rebuking. It’s in 2 Timothy 3:16:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (NIV)

Today’s Challenge. Your challenge today is to explore the idea Paul presents here—all Scripture is useful for rebuking—from one of two viewpoints: The rebuker, the person having to rebuke another, or the rebukee, the person being rebuked. If you have time, explore the idea from both viewpoints.

Blue ceramic owl salt (or pepper) shaker sitting in front of an antique cream and blue dish set. Photo text: Challenge Day 16, Bible-rebuked. #writinglifeaugustchallenge

Rebukers: When is it appropriate to rebuke another person? How are you to go about it? Remember the context of the passage, described briefly in yesterday’s blog, and search your Bible for other instruction on whether, when, and how to go about doing it.

Rebukees: How are you to react when someone rebukes you? When the Holy Spirit speaks to you and tells you something needs to change? I know my initial reaction is to go on the defense and bite back (admittedly, not the best reaction). Search your Bible for advice on how to react, or for examples of how individuals confronted with their wrongs have reacted in the past.

As always, your explorations should be accompanied by prayer and a bit of soul-searching. Ask God to help you understand and to be able to look at things honestly, with his eyes and heart, and to help you if action is needed when you’re done.

Today’s Participation. I’ll admit that this was a hard challenge for me to write and think about, simply because I’ve wondered if I should approach a friend of mine about something I suspect is going on in her life. Do I know her well enough? Is it even really going on? If it is, how will she know the only reason I bring it up is because I love her? How can I convey God’s love and God’s wisdom in this—or should I?

The participation today is to try to obey God if you’re in a situation where rebuke (or repentance) is called for. After prayer and exploration and God’s prompting, do what you believe God is asking you to do—if anything. Whatever you do, do it with the backing of God’s word—and do it in love.

Challenge Day 16

When I sat down to write this blog, I considered approaching it by discussing the differences between my husband and I when it comes to being a student. I was always a good student—I enjoyed school, got good grades for the most part (my math and science teachers may disagree on that one), and just kept going and going and going through to the PhD level. Honestly, much of my education was easy for me until the graduate level, when I had to put in some honest, hard work. I was—and still am, in many ways—a good learner.

But my husband? He claims to never have been a good student. Maybe not bad, but perhaps the word he would choose (if he used words like this) would be mediocre. Now, as a new student of the Bible—new, meaning that the past few years have been the only time in his life that he has actually tried to read it and learn from it—he struggles. He struggles because he is unfamiliar with the material and finds some concepts difficult to grasp; he also struggles because he has a notoriously bad memory. (I’ll admit to adding the word notoriously in there.)

That’s how I was going to start the blog—and how, I suppose, I did start it. After starting this way, I was going to neatly segue into today’s topic, how we can learn from the Bible. I even prepared a challenge photo to go with it:

Green owl mug sitting on a bookshelf. Photo text: Challenge Day 16, Bible-taught. #writinglifeaugustchallenge

And then I realized I was reading today’s verse all wrong.

Today’s Inspiration. The inspiration for today’s challenge is, as it has been for a few days, 2 Timothy 3:16:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (NIV)

The focus today is All Scripture is … useful for teaching.

Do you see my mistake?

All Scripture is useful for teaching. Teaching, not learning, as I was thinking of it. Of course, if the Bible (and I’m including the New Testament in here, which Paul didn’t have—but was writing a large part of—when he used the word Scripture) is useful for teaching, then it is also useful for learning from. But when Paul wrote this, he was writing to Timothy who was in a place of authority in the ministry. He was leading the ministry, at the same time that Paul was teaching him how to minister.

There is a big difference between being the teacher and the student. I can say this from years of experience, because I’ve been both. In fact, when I started teaching I was simultaneously learning how to teach and learning material I wasn’t teaching at all. That’s the paradox of a graduate teaching assistant—in charge of my own classes, learning what tools to use to teach as I was teaching, but also taking my own classes in subjects far beyond my students’ level of learning. That’s a bit how I imagine Timothy here: He’s done taking his own classes and set loose on his own, a bit like the dissertation-writing time for a PhD student. He’s already leading and teaching, but he also still needs advice from his advisor, Paul. So they write back and forth, and what we have here is Paul giving Timothy some advice.

And what is he saying? He’s saying All Scripture is … useful for teaching. You have the textbook to teach from, Timothy. When you build your curricula, use that. Any of it. All of it. Because all Scripture is useful for teaching.

Same photo as above: Green owl mug sitting on a bookshelf. But the text has been changed. It still says Challenge Day 16: Bible-, but the word taught is crossed out in red and the word “teaching” is suggested as a replacement. It still has #writinglifeaugustchallenge.

But where does that bring us? I suppose that depends on where you already are.

Today’s Challenge. The thing about teaching is that, ideally, the teacher should know the subject well before attempting to teach it. When Paul told Timothy that all Scripture was useful for teaching, he knew that Timothy knew his Scripture. He had been brought up in the faith and had taken it as his own (2 Timothy 1:5).

There was something going in in Timothy’s ministry, too—he was dealing with a bunch of people who were teaching things that were “off” from what the Scripture or what Jesus had taught (which lined up with, you guessed it, Scripture). So Paul was telling him that Scripture was the tool he could always rely on for teaching—all of it.

This brings us to the “where you are” question, and to today’s challenge. First, prayerfully examine where you are in your walk with the Lord. Are you new to your faith, still learning? Have you believed in Jesus as your Savior for a long time, but still don’t know your Bible well? Do you know the Bible in and out, love what it says, and try to live it out? Somewhere in between? Does it depend on the day?

Next, try reading 2 Timothy 3:10-17 (or even more of the chapter/book). Get a wider sense of what Paul was telling Timothy. And then consider: Are you to the point of, or in a position in which you are teaching others of your faith? About God’s redeeming love, Jesus’ death and resurrection, about godly living—any of it? Or would you need to learn more yourself before attempting to teach? In both situations, the answer is God’s word: consider God’s word, all of it, the primary teaching material. And when you sit under someone else’s teaching (because all of us are still learners), find someone who teaches God’s word to do it.

Today’s Participation. Are you a teacher? A learner? Both? Either face to face or online, share with someone what you learned about yourself and the Bible in today’s challenge.