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On a recent scan of Scripture, I spotted a pattern that reveals God’s affection for women. It connected women like Mary of Bethany to the Proverbs 31 woman to Titus 2 women with this resounding theme: God dearly wants women to grow

God wants women to grow in love with Jesus - to believe His Word and to do what He says. Jesus loved that Mary committed to growing this way, and he encouraged her sister to do the same thing. He loves when we grow closer and closer to Him. That’s why He made us.

God wants women to grow in practical skills that will enrich ourselves, our families, and our communities. In Proverbs 31, God celebrates the vibrant woman who is always learning new skills, enjoying hard work, and sharing her wealth with everyone around her. The Proverbs 31 woman grows in every direction – faith, physical strength, beauty, knowledge of God’s will, family, craft, business, ministry… All of her growth springs from her love for God and her desire to glorify Him.

God wants women to grow in relationships that will encourage them to love their families and live righteously. Titus 2 encourages women – old and young alike – to build relationships for the purpose of growing, living according to God’s Word, and being radiant examples of God’s goodness and grace.

I recommend reading Hebrews 12, which is a powerful call to grow in the Lord.

Pray about it? Last night, I got together with a handful of women to pray about how each of us may grow in the Lord this year. We based our prayers on Jesus’ example of growth: “Jesus grew in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Luke 2:52. I thought perhaps you’d like the outline of our prayer time to guide your own.

Wisdom: How is wisdom calling aloud for me? What light have you already shed on my path that I must walk in? How would you like me to grow in wisdom this year? (Consider James 1:5, 3:17, Proverbs 8:11, and Proverbs 9)

Stature: How have I grown physically this past year? How do you want me to grow physically this year? (Consider Luke 10:27, Proverbs 31:17 and 25

Favor with God:  When you think of me, what delights your heart? How do you want our relationship to grow this year? Consider the truths in this song:

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Favor with people: What do you think about my relationships this past year? Is there anyone I must reconcile with this year? How can I love people better this year? (Consider Mark 12:28-31)

May you and I make this a definitive year in which we throw off every sin that entangles us and holds us back, so that we can grow to be more like Jesus, showing people everywhere how good God is.

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A Book to Begin 2014

I’m reading a fantastic book by Kathleen Nielson about the why and how of Bible Study. (Our church’s women’s Bible Study has enjoyed Nielson’s studies over the years.) The hardest thing about the book is that it evokes such a hunger to read the Bible that it’s hard to get through a chapter without closing the book and opening up Scripture! (Not a bad problem, I’d say.)

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If I sit down to teach you the Bible, how do you know I know what I’m talking about??

Not to mention, How do I know I know what I’m talking about??

One of my greatest concerns about teaching the Bible is that I’d teach something wrong. I’m afraid I’ll use a verse out of context, manipulate Scripture to support my agenda, or forget to display Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. It’s downright scary.

Can you relate?

As it turns out, we’re not alone. I’ve been asking around and every solid Bible teacher says the same thing: “It’s a healthy fear that you should never outgrow.”

Every Christian has the responsibility of reverencing Scripture, working hard to teach it accurately, remembering that our hearts will easily deceive us and our human understanding will limit us. But, we must persist in teaching Scripture nonetheless.

So, I’ve been on a quest to discover helpful ways to live in the tension between teaching-the-Bible and shaking-in-our boots. Here are 3:

1. Submit to godly authority.

Last month, I read an article written by Jen Wilkin that rocked my world: “Pastors Need Women Teachers (And Vice Versa)“.  It reminded me that I don’t need to be a lone ranger; that I can – even should – expect to find a safe space within my local church to grow as a Bible teacher.  As it turns out, I (definitely) need the nurture and oversight of my church, and – I’m believing in faith – they need me.

This is a big reason why I’ll be meeting with our pastor and director of women’s ministry this week: to talk about how I can teach the Bible within the protection of our church leadership, doctrine, and membership. Maybe I can submit my teaching notes and study guides to a few  knowledgeable church leaders and learn from their feedback.

2. Stick close to doctrinely sound commentaries.

Bible scholars have invested years and years in studying Scripture, history, and languages. Their commentaries have been read and thoroughly critiqued by other bible scholars who have studied for years and years…  The commentaries that have made it onto the bookshelves of sound preachers and teachers are worth a close look and can inform my lessons.  Recently,  Jen Wilkin pointed me to an incredible list of “Top Commentaries on Every Book of the Bible” published by Ligonier Ministries, which is a goldmine of helpful insights and applications. I’ll be digging in…

3. Teach through the Bible, from the Bible.

They call it “expository teaching”. Basically, it’s the technique of teaching through a book of the Bible, verse by verse, allowing Scripture to inform the agenda, instead of asking Scripture to adhere to a human-made agenda.

For example, an expository teacher would rather teach through the book of Matthew and address fear when it comes up in chapter 14, than plan a lesson called “Overcoming Fear” based on 25 detached verses about fear.

I like the expository approach because it respects Scripture for what it is – a complete story – set in history but living through eternity –  about God Himself, glorifying Jesus Christ as the Light of the World and King over all.  

Of course, I’ve admired many topical teachers who maintain all of those high ideals, but they usually can teach topically because they’ve studied the Bible in an expository way.

Expository teaching makes me sigh with relief because it protects me, minimizing my chances of using a verse out of context, manipulating Scripture to support my agenda, or forgetting to display Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith.

It also points my audience to the true Teacher, encouraging them to dig into Scripture and read it well for themselves. (Now that’s relief!) Then, when they need to find immediate guidance for fear, forgiveness, or suffering, they will know how to rely on the full counsel of God, select a few verses that really do apply to their situation and think about them rightly.

Though I’ll seize opportunities to speak about topics like  “motherhood” or “marriage” where I’ll need to pull Scripture verses from here or there, and I’ll continue to link to individual verses within my posts,  I think that when it comes to weekly Bible teaching, I’m going to camp out with expository teaching, working through verse by verse, in light of the whole Book.

What are your thoughts?

 

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Lia_1

As you wake up and get rolling today, I invite you to do something that will change everything about your day:

Preach the gospel to yourself.

Preach that in a world of darkness, Jesus ascended as the only light of the world.

Remind yourself that if you have received Him as your light, you have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.

Preach that you are a child of God

…who doesn’t have to scramble for acceptance, perfection, or worth, for all those things are yours in Jesus.

Speak aloud that your home is Heaven, where you will be united with Jesus, worship Him as He is, enjoy the fellowship of all the saints throughout all of time, and forever savor the rightness for which we all long. The circumstances of the day and the “to-do” lists of each hour are no longer your reason for existence. You are no longer just looking forward to lunch, you are looking forward to Home, where your heart is set.

In light of these truths, there will be no more wallowing in selfish desires, manipulating, striving, and working so hard towards our own ends. For Jesus Christ is the center of all Scripture, all time, and all space. It is He who holds everything together. Every knee will bow to the Prince of Peace. All nature sings His praise. And all things are created for His pleasure and glory.

Finally, remember this sweet relief: that Jesus has created you and called you to live this day for Him, in light of what He has done for you.

May you and I never tire of preaching or hearing this beautiful sermon, for it will turn our hearts toward Jesus and make our joy complete.

Enjoy the day!

Lia_2

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Last night, I got together with a wonderful Christian woman who has been teaching local women the Bible for years. We sat down to a delicious dinner at a local Italian restaurant, with my list of questions, and a natural compatibility. I dug into my shrimp scampi with gusto (remember, I am 18 weeks pregnant), and Sherilyn encouraged me from start-to-finish.

One of the first things she asked me was, “Are you sure you don’t have the spiritual gift of exhortation with the skill of teaching?” Somehow, I knew the answer right away, but I asked her to explain. She said that the gift of exhortation is when you love to shine the light of God’s Word, inviting people to see, live, and think rightly.  Teaching involves a much more systematic approach, with notes, homework, and careful assessment. I told her I thought she was onto something…

When I got home, I pulled down my big, fat Strong’s Concordance and looked up all the references for “exhort” and “exhortation”. In Scripture, it usually occurs alongside teaching (and patience!).

From the Greek dictionary:

exhort (parakaleo) = “to call near, invite, invoke (by imploration, giving advise, or consolation), beseech, call for, be of good comfort, desire, intreat, pray.” This totally reminds me of my rough-draft tagline! “Inviting you to live in the light of God’s Word.” Coincidence? Of course not!

From the Webster’s dictionary:

exhort = to incite by words or advice, to advise or warn earnestly.

If you know me well, you can answer her question for me. Um, YES! I LOVE TO EXHORT. Love it. Love it. Love it.

I love to give the best advice possible and explain Scripture clearly so that people see a great, big lightbulb and say, “OH! What MAGNIFICENT TRUTH!”

I’m laughing out loud with glee just typing about it.

I also love to teach, but I can see now why God would be leading me into a season of developing my ability to teach the Bible. Because it’s a skill that I can improve and, with God’s help and guidance, I’ll keep on.

This may be “Day 31 of 31″ in the blogosphere, but in real-time, I’ve just begun…

 

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Amy Carroll recommends that speakers develop taglines that answers everyone’s question: “What do you speak about??”

This tagline goes at the top of your webpage and bio sheet; it’s also helpful in the elevator. To start the brainstorming process, she wrote two helpful posts:

Writing a Tagline, Part 1 of 2

Writing a Tagline, Part 2 of 2

She recommends that you get started by writing a list of things that you… speak about!

When I worked on this assignment – jotting down my themes, buzz words, soapboxes, and passions, I thought, “everybody speaks about these things”.  I thought I was SO stealing everybody else’s taglines and ideas. But then I looked around the web and realized that female speakers have taken specific slants that are very distinct from mine. To some, living by faith is the focus of their messages. To others, it’s simple living, or confidence, purity, motherhood, or wisdom. Seeing that God has actually given each of us a unique passion, interest, story, and theme gave me confidence to stop cowering and write a tagline that pinpoints what I love teaching. (Lia expressed it perfectly, “Your tagline should be, “I love to speak about Jesus.” Oh, that amazing girl.)

My soapbox: the wonders of God and His Word; the brilliance of living in the light of God’s Word, whether it concern marriage, motherhood, sisterhood, or moment-by-moment living…

These are the (so far) possibilities. Do you like one more than another? Or, do you have another possibility for the list?

“Inviting you to live in the light of God’s Word.”

OH. Hmmm. So it turns out there’s just one possibility so far. Oops. I’m supposed to have a list of 2 or 3 really good ones.

Help??

 

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With extreme reservation, I asked the tec-savvy sound guys at the Christian school if it was possible: could they, maybe, if it really wasn’t any problem, (and they certainly could say no if they needed to), but maybe, could they possibly record my talk??

Of course, the tec-savvy sound guys at the Christian school said, “No problem!”

They recorded it happily. I winced.

They said, “We’ll get that to your dropbox as soon as possible!” I winced again.

I’ve never listened to one of my talks before. Never. Oh, I wish I could stay in my ignorant and happy place forever! But Andy Stanley says “don’t you dare”. He says the best way to improve at public speaking is to nit-pick your way through every recording, identifying strong points and noting areas of growth.

So…

I…

am going to…

listentomyself.

Yikes. I can hardly type that without hiding under the table.

I’ll let you know if I survive.

(Have you ever done this terrible thing? Did you actually survive??)

 

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It was the day I was scheduled to speak at the local Christian high school, and I was late. I forgot all of the handouts and props that I planned to use. My clothes were splattered with grime, and I forgot to switch my sneakers for heels. When I got up front, I realized that my mouth was full of the stickiest gum in the world. It was coating my teeth and tongue, making me gag. I turned my back to the audience so I could get it out, but I couldn’t pull it out no matter how frantically I tried.

That was my dream two nights ago.

It was one of those dreams that *BETTER* just be revealing my worst fears – and not serving as a premonition of terrible things to come. (I mean, it was pretty bad with the gum and all. Yuk.)

So when I woke up this morning to a glorious day, feeling clear-headed and organized, I PRAISED GOD. When I packed the car and realized that I had everything I needed, I was thrilled. When I actually remembered to switch my slippers with my black heels, I practically did a back flip. And during the drive there, I praised God that I could speak clearly! I was on time! And all was well. The terror of my dream opened my heart to gratitude for this awesome opportunity to serve God. It took my mind off of my typical obsessions and fears and focused my eyes on the glorious calling we each have as members of the Body of Christ. What a gift He has given us!

Today’s chapel talk was a wonderful opportunity for me to apply some of the things that God has been teaching me this month.

For example…

TRUST. It was so good for me to trust God. I had to trust Him to redeem past mistakes. I had to trust Him to work through me. I had to trust Him to glorify Himself despite my humble offering.

FOCUS. It was good for me to focus on the people in the audience – and not on myself. My love for them grew as I prayed – weeks ahead of time – in pursuit of compassion and understanding. This shaped my lesson, my delivery, my application, and my generosity. I am so grateful for this insight.

TRUTH. It was good for me to share biblical truths that won’t change over time. I love that I can count on the beauty, endurance, and power of God’s Word to speak in ways I cannot fathom.

Thank you for your prayers, if you prayed them. Thank you for your support and care. All was well. May God alone be glorified and may each of us love Him more because of today.

 

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When it comes to teaching, my greatest hope is to offer solid biblical teaching and life-changing application so that every person may walk in the light of God’s Word.

Kevin DeYoung just finished up an excellent series about the importance of each person studying the Bible to discover the truth for him/herself. This is my hope for you, me, and everyone else.

How to Be Better Bereans (Part 1 of 3)

How to Be Better Bereans (Part 2 of 3)

How to Be Better Bereans (Part 3 of 3)

 

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I’ve been preparing for Monday’s chapel talk. The  headmaster asked me to talk about the Scripture that they are memorizing this week: John 8:12 “And Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” What a glorious topic! What an enormous topic!

As I sort through my pages of notes hoping to glean 30 minutes of solid, beneficial teaching,  I’m asking four big questions about the students:

1. What do they need to know?

2. Why do they need to know it?

3. What do they need to do?

4. Why do they need to do it?

(Thanks, Andy Stanley for helping me to think more strategically…)

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