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.

Challenge Day 14

Today’s Inspiration. For several years in my late twenties and early thirties, I was between churches. This Baptist-raised, Sunday school, Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night prayer meeting—and later, youth group and college group—attending girl just stopped going for a while.

The years that I stopped going to church happened to be in my I-don’t-trust-God-with-the-big-decisions-in-my-life phase (described a bit here). That, in all honesty, was the biggest reason I didn’t go. But it also had a lot to do with a) the fact that I was dating a raised-to-go-to-weekly-mass, but didn’t-really-go-anymore-because-he-worked-seven-days-a-week Irish, Roman Catholic man (whom I married after many, many years of waiting for him to finally propose) and b) my own disappointment in the lies, the corruption, and the failure to deal with said corruption in the church I had last regularly attended—which happened to be Pentecostal.

When my boyfriend/fiancé/husband and I did occasionally look for a church, it was hard to find a balance: conservative and calm enough in its worship for him, and grounded in Biblical teaching for me. This last was extremely important to me: I needed meat, not milk (Hebrews 5:11-14), sermons primarily based in and derived from God’s word, verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, or book-by-book (as opposed to the more topical sermons that use a verse or two here and there). In effect, I wanted the teaching we sat under each week to be useful in both (all, now) of our lives.

The idea of the usefulness of God’s word is today’s inspiration:

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 examine the usefulness of Scripture—of the Bible—to your own life. Do you believe it is useful (this touches on yesterday’s challenge question, too)? Do you really use it? Do you even know enough of the Bible for it to be useful in your own life? How should, or do, you use it? All of these are questions you could consider when contemplating the Bible’s usefulness.

Stacked dishes: Gravy boat, sugar bowl, teacup without a handle, sitting in front of a plate that stands in the background. Photo text: Challenge Day 14, the Bible is useful. #writinglifeaugustchallenge

Pray for understanding and insight, both of God’s word and of your own heart, before you begin. Then, spend some time searching for answers in the Bible and in your own heart, mind, and actions. You may want to journal as you think through these questions.

Today’s Participation. Make it personal! What do you believe—really believe—about the Bible’s usefulness? Or how is it useful to you in your everyday life? Share your thoughts with someone in person, comment below, or create an Instagram post using #writinglifeaugustchallenge.

I know some of you may be wondering: Did we ever find a church? The answer is yes, resoundingly yes. The first year of our marriage, my husband and I lived apart; I was finishing courses for grad school out of state, and he stayed home at the job he had worked at for years. My brother invited us to his non-denominational church for Christmas services and we were hooked. When I moved back home nearly six months later, we started attending regularly and feasted on a regular diet of meat. Fast-forward 11 years to today: We have both grown tremendously in our personal walks with the Lord, and we have grown to love the church—the people we learn, grow, and serve with. Church is no longer merely a place to go to listen and sing and learn; it is family, it is home, it is who we are and how we live in Christ.

I also want to say a word to those who may have been hurt by something you saw or something done to you in a church before, since I mentioned having seen lies and corruption in a previous church: People are fallible. People, being people, will make mistakes and—yes—even sin. Putting our trust and hopes in people, as much as we love them, will ultimately lead to disappointment of some sort. What matters is that when sin is present, it is acknowledged, repented of, and if necessary disciplined in a Biblical manner. The church I attended in the past didn’t do that, at least not while I was there. I had made the mistake of trusting the people more than I was ready to trust God. I had it backwards. But don’t give up on all church bodies—on the church—if you encounter one that tries to hide its wrongs and ignores God’s word. Instead, find one that makes use of the word. And don’t give up trusting in God.