1 Timothy Week #4

Dear ladies ,

I think we can probably all agree that this chapter is not the first one we would suggest that a new believing woman use as a springboard to a lifelong habit of Bible study . Without the benefit of other studies and knowledge of who God is one might conclude that God prefers women who sit down, shut up, wear camouflage so we blend in with the scenery and birth lots of babies . I’m telling you now if that’s what God expects of us He’s going to be sorely disappointed in me . I’m not a sit down shut up woman by nature . You will not find the word WELCOME tattooed across my chest like I’m some kind of a doormat .

Nor is this the type of woman that God created me to be . He knows what I’m like . He gave me this heart . He also gave me a questioning attitude . Basically whenever I study a passage I ask myself three questions .

1. What do I see in God’s word? What’s the story, the characters, the message ?

2. What does this reveal about God’s heart? Is there a lesson, promise or command that he’s trying to teach me with these particular words ?

3. How does this connect with my life in today’s world ?

So in rereading this passage (without angry eyes) this is what I find . Enter Church ready to worship . Let my mind be focused on the pastor before me not the people around me. Clothes cover the man, they don’t make the man. Let the heart God gave me be visible but cover most of the rest to me in a way that won’t distract the people around me . Be quick to listen slow to speak . And if I have questions, hold onto them . Allow the pastor to preach his whole sermon and see if they get answered . If they do, perfect. And if they don’t, find someone who can answer them . Culturally at that time the men would’ve been educated not the women . It makes sense then for the husband to be charged with teaching their wives .

I honestly don’t know how I feel about women preaching . Fortunately it’s not my call to make . I just need to enter church on Sunday ready to worship with a teachable heart and trust that God will meet me there .

Love, as always ,Renée

Now on to this weeks lesson:

Read 1 Timothy 3

Memory verse : 1 Timothy 3:13 “those who have served well will gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus “

1. What does it mean to you to be above reproach ?

2. Have you ever witnessed a time when a pastor failed to live up to this standard?

3. What was the fallout ?

4. How have you seen our pastors managing their families well ?

5. Why do you think Paul insists that leaders not be recent converts ?

6. How does your church vet its leaders ?

7. Once in place, how likely is it that anyone holds leaders accountable ?

8. How does serving well bring about excellent standing and how does this promise shape your own service ?

For the good of the group : How is our church a pillar and/or a foundation of the truth?

For personal growth : verse 11 says “in the same way the women are to be worthy of respect not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything “. You know I can’t let that one slide by. How sweet are your words? Who are the people in your life that bring out your malicious side ? How might God be using their words and actions to shape you ? Who in your life would benefit most if God were to temper your words ? Are you a trustworthy keeper of others confidences? How can you be praying that God shut your mouth before it gets you in trouble ?

1 Timothy 2

Dear Ladies,

Don’t you just wonder what thoughts we’re running through Timothy’s head as he read this letter from Paul? In just a few sentences he goes from Paul’s spiritual child to being the spiritual head of a deeply troubled church. It almost doesn’t seem fair. Wouldn’t you have hoped he’d been given an easier flock to tend? These people are a mess! Recently rioting, unholy, irreligious, sexually promiscuous people with little regards for human life.

I recently heard a saying “if God placed a Goliath before you it’s because he already placed some David within you.” The Ephesian church is Timothy’s Goliath. Paul is quick to point that out as he urged his young friend to fight the battle well.

This is a heart issue that many Christians struggle with. They think their faith entitles them to a smooth sail through life. Here’s the thing though. We’re not on a cruise ship. We’re on a battle ship and we can expect to be on the opposite side of the culture war than many of our friends and neighbors. They say be inclusive, fly the rainbow flag. God calls homosexuality an abomination. They say sleep with as many men as you want, you have the right to be happy. God says cleave to your one. They say abort that clump of cells. God says we are wonderfully made, knit by His hands. And when they say God doesn’t exist, He never was. He boldly proclaims “I Am”, Beginning and the End, who was and is and evermore shall be.

So when life’s battle reaches a crescendo in your little corner of the world just remember who’s side you’re on and who’s really doing the fighting. Yes, God will allow His beloved children to face chaotic situations, some you may not feel equipped to handle. Just know that you are loved beyond measure. Look for the Paul he sends your way who brings sweet words of encouragement to remind you of your purpose and of the God who will surely carry you through.

Beloved, as always, Renée

Now on to this week’s lesson

Read 1 Timothy 2

Memory verse 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus “

1. How does Paul suggest that the church pray?

2. Is there a formula or strategy that you use when you pray for everyone who comes to mind?

3. How likely is it that you intentionally pray for political leaders?

4. If you do intentionally pray for your politicians what difference have you noticed in the way your town/state is run?

5. Why do you think Paul cares about women’s fashion choices?

6. Have you ever been made to feel like your church attire didn’t meet other women’s approval or expectations?

7. Why do you think Paul discourages women from speaking during worship and/or preaching?

8. After reading verse 15, how can you correct wrong that giving birth is a ticket to Heaven?

For the good of the group:

How easy is it for you to explain to others that Jesus is the only way to come to the Father?

For personal growth:

This is a tough chapter for women to read. How do these verses sit with you? Do you agree that women shouldn’t hold a leadership position in church? Do you foresee a time when it would be acceptable for a woman to preach in our church? For those who agree with Paul, is it difficult to reconcile that in a culture where women are striving to be equal to or greater than men? Are there teachings you struggle with because they no longer seem culturally relevant? What do you do with your doubts?

1 Timothy 1:1-20

Dear Ladies,

Let's face it. We like to be prepared. We like to know what's happening in our day. We watch the news so we know whether or not to put a sweater in our kids' backpacks. We keep Kleenex in our purses because sooner or later somebody's going to sniffle. And we prepare our husbands to not disappoint us by asking them where they'd like to go to eat.....? You know.....? Next Friday.....? For our anniversary?

When I first started in the emergency room I had a 4 week orientation period. I was already a nurse, had been for 18 years. I just needed to adjust my skill set to meet the situations common to emergency rooms. Probably one of the most beneficial things I learned came from a well-seasoned night shift nurse. She explained the unique culture of each shift.

The day shift is mostly filled with injuries. Sometimes those injuries occurred the night before but they were too drunk to come then. Sometimes they just come looking for a worknote because they couldn't possibly flip burgers on a sore ankle. Second shift tends to have a mixture of sick and wounded. Kids are home from school, falling off their bikes. Moms are cutting their fingers trying to chop vegetables for dinner. Grandma's been sick since yesterday but couldn't get a doctor's appointment today and can't wait til morning. Nights are reserved for the spiritually broken, the homeless, the drunks and/or the victims of their intoxication. After she explained all this she pointed out the nurses who would help me to grow. This nurse, Joyce, wanted me armed with the weapons I would need to be a competent, well-rounded ER nurse.

That's why we spent this past week in Acts. I wanted us to understand what Ephesus was like, the culture Timothy would face, the culture Timothy would face (think rioting silversmiths), and the certainty of trouble to come. Those savage wolves coming to distort the truth and destroy the flock.

I appreciate all that information about Ephesus so we can rejoice together as we see how Paul guides young Timothy through possible pitfalls. We'll see his tender care over Timothy and for the church he's being called to serve. I look forward to walking through this next study with you.

Love, as always, Renée

Now on to this week's lesson

Read 1 Timothy 1:1-20 Memory verse 1:15 "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance; Christ Jesus came to the world to save sinners-of whom I am the worst."

1. Why do you think Paul felt it necessary to lay out his credentials in 1 Timothy 1:1?

2. How might myths and genealogies have gotten in the way of God's work then?

3. What kinds of things get in the way of God's work today?

4. How might God be calling you to untwist the half-truths you hear spoken today?

5. Paul tells Timothy that the Law is made for lawbreakers and then points out a laundry list of sins. Do you think the Ephesians sinned because they were ignorant of the law or just didn't care? Explain your answer.

6. Paul says he was shown mercy because he acted in ignorance and unbelief. Why do you think God chose to be merciful?

7. Can you tell of a time when God was merciful to you?

8. What was your response to God's mercy?

For the good of the group:

Paul names names at the end of 1 Timothy 1. How likely is it that you'd call someone out on their sins?

For personal growth:

Paul gave Timothy several reasons to stay and serve the Ephesian church, beginning with the fact that they needed truth. (1:3-7). Who do you know that needs understand the truth of who God is and what He's done? Are there people you hold back from sharing this with? What gets in the way? Is it fear of being rejected? Is it that you lack confidence? Do you feel like it's someone else's responsibility? Do you think Jesus was only kidding when He issued the great commission at the end of Matthew 28? When you read your Bible do you find it hard to find God's commands or do you see them and think they don't really matter?

Timothy 1

Dear Ladies,

If you've spent any time letting your fingers walk through the pages of the New Testament, you've probably come across Paul's warning to the Corinthian church about being unequally yoked. (2 Cor. 6:14-18). A yoke is that wooden instrument that attaches two beasts of burden together at the neck. It keeps them moving forward, both pulling together at the same time with the same amount of strength. It makes sense that you wouldn't attach a Shetland pony and a Clydesdale to the same yoke and expect them to pull the same weight. The bigger horse would have to lean down so far that he'd be walking around in circles and the pony likely wouldn't be able to walk at all. You need the right partner pulling alongside you if you want to get the job done.

That's true in farming and especially true in in parenting. It's so important that parents present a united front to their children. Sure they're cute, but kids are crafty. They'll wear you out, break you down and then divide and conquer. Which of us moms haven't heard our children say " but Dad said we could __________". It doesn't matter how you fill in that blank. They have separated you from your husband as effectively as a pride of lions separates the weaker gazelle from the herd.

Whether it be school work, household chores, what's acceptable on TV, what time dinner is, having friends sleep over, getting a puppy or deciding when the training wheels come off, you and your husband must be in agreement. I believe, however, that nowhere is this more important than when it comes to raising children with faith. It is so very difficult, nearly impossible even , for an unbelieving parent to raise a believing child. How can you place your child's feet on solid ground if you don't know where you stand.

Timothy was raised in such a household. His mother was a believer, his father was Greek. We might never have heard of this young man without one crucial verse in the Bible "I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmothers Lois, and in your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded now lives in you also". Did you catch it ladies? Right there! The power of a praying grandmother. Eunice wasn't alone. Oh what sweet prayers those two women must have offered up on Timothy's behalf. We'll never know what they said, but Lois was enough of a counter balance on Eunice's side of the yoke that Timothy grew to be the man of faith he was. And we get to spend the next seven weeks learning more about him and his work.

Love, as always, Renée

Now on to this week's lesson

Re-read Acts 16:1-5, and skim Acts chapters 19-20

Memory verse Acts 20:29. " I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and not spare the flock"

1. What's the first thing Paul did when he stepped foot in Ephesus?

2. How likely is it that you would establish a faith connection when you meet new neighbors?

3. When Paul encountered resistance in the synagogue he switched locations and preached elsewhere until he'd spoken to everyone in Ephesus. What's your response when you meet resistance?

4. During the riot that occurred because the silversmiths were concerned about losing income, Paul's disciples wouldn't let him address the crowds. Why do you think that was?

5. Can you speak of a time when a fellow believer stepped up to be the voice of reason in your life?

6. Paul commissioned the elders to be the shepherds of the church. How did he prepare them for that role?

7. How did he encourage them?

8. What warning did he give?

For the good of the group: Who are you shepherding now for possible future service?

For personal growth:

It helps to know the background story of the church Timothy is being asked to serve. Think of how you're serving your church right now. How did you get that role? How much time did you spend in prayer to determine if this was where God intended you to serve? How were you prepared to serve? Were you provided with information about what was expected of you? Do you feel as though you were given adequate information regarding the pros and cons related to the poupulation you'd be serving and/or the task you would be doing? As you consider the eventual end to your service how likely is it that you would seek God's guidance to determine who should succeed you in service? Will you follow the model Paul set before us as you plan to prepare your successor?

Lois and Eunice

Dear Ladies,

If we accept that Lemuel is probably Solomon that then completely changes my thinking about the Proverbs 31 woman. Rather than her being this nearly impossible role model to follow she becomes someone's mom, and all of Proverbs 31 becomes a loving tribute from an appreciative son, just bragging about having the best mom in the world. If Lemuel is indeed Solomon he'd have been raised in a palace with all of David's wives and concubines and other children. There were lots of others around with which to compare his mom and she still comes out on top.

In our heart of hearts isn't that what we want? Don't we want our kids bragging on how great their mama is? You probably know the song. " I want a girl, just like the girl who married dear old Dad". Well if that's what we want our kids to think we need to strive to be the kinds of mothers who inspire loyalty. We need to be kind hearted, even tempered and wise. We need to steer our kids away from life's pitfalls and steer them towards the things that make them become solid citizens. We can't just talk. We need to walk it out for them to see.

Decades ago Dorothy Law Nolte wrote a poem called " Children Learn What They Live". If you've never read it before I encourage you to go to the library or do a quick Google search. In essence it says that kid model what they see. Their behavior is a direct reflection of the environment in which they were raised. So if we want to have kids who seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God we need to be moms who embody these qualities. They should see us with our Bibles open, our hearts joyful, and our hands and feet eagerly doing what God has gifted us to do.

Gandhi has a quote "Be the change you want to see in the world". We sometimes take that to mean we have to change the whole world. Well ladies, Bathsheba started with one small boy and look where that got us.

Love, as always, Renée

Now on to this week's lesson

Read Acts 16:1-5; 2 Timothy 1:5 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Memory verse 2 Timothy 1:5 " I am reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded now lives in you also"

1. From the passage in Acts what do you learn about Timothy's family background?

2. We're told that both Lois and Eunice had sincere faith. Do you think they were originally Jews or were they Gentiles before becoming believers? Explain why you think that.

3. In your experience have you seen children develop sincere faith when only one parent was a believer?

4. How did that child come to faith?

5. Paul points out that faith first lived in Timothy's grandmother. How did your own grandmother model faith to you?

6. He also credits Timothy's mom. In what ways has your mom contributed to shaping your faith?

7. Which of the two had the most influence in your spiritual growth and how did that happen?

8. How can you influence the spiritual growth of your grandkids, even the ones not yet born?

For the good of the group: what's the best thing your grandmother ever taught you?

For personal growth: In 2 Timothy 3 Paul encourages Timothy to cling to the faith that was instilled in him since infancy. How good of a job have you done in guiding your kids' faith? In our passage from Acts Paul mentions that Timothy's father was Greek. Do you and your husband share the same faith? If not, who has been the primary influencer in regards to how your children think, act and believe? If you raised believing children in an unbelieving household how did you do it? How did your children come to faith? If they haven't, how can you be praying for that to happen? What specific steps will you take to shape your grandchildren's faith? Do you feel like you can influence them if their parents don't yet believe? For those who have believing children, how can you support their efforts to raise your grandkids with solid faith?

Lemuel's Mom

Dear Ladies,

I hope each of you fared well through yesterday' storms. We lost power overnight but otherwise had no major damage. It was just a minor nuisance. Good to know God is in control of the winds and the rain. Good to know that God is also in control of the orphaned and abandoned as well. We got to see that when we spent some time this week looking at the issue of adoption.

At its best, adoption is a beautiful act of sacrificial love, but it isn't without its pitfalls. My best friend and her husband tried for several years to conceive. There were lots of shots and visits to the fertility clinic. By the time they'd exhausted all possible resources and started to consider adoption she was told she was too old to adopt an American infant. She was 38. Instead they ended up adopting their son from Cambodia.

Women in the US typically don't give up their children and I believe there's two possible reasons. Abortions are affordable and readily available. There are options without resorting to back alleys and coat hangers. And second, we've removed all shame associated with having children out of wedlock. To bring shame alongside sexual sin is frowned upon by modern society.

I could continue down this negative path or I could take us back to the sweet side of adoption. When Moses' mom laid her son-who she clearly cherished- in a basket and floated him down the river there was nothing but love in that act. He had no chance to live with Pharoah's edict to kill every Hebrew boy baby. But think about it. One strong breeze, a rock in the water, a curious fish, or even the baby moving his arms would have tipped that basket over.

But God. (Don't you just love those two words?). But God had different plans for Moses. Forget about him leading the Jews out of Egypt for a moment. That first adoption of a baby into a king's household points to our own adoption by a Loving King. Turns out God doesn't want our rafts to tip over in life's river. Those are rough waters to navigate on our own. How sweet that we don't need to do that.

Love, as always, Renée

Now on to this week's lesson

Read Proverbs 31:1-9 and skim 10-31.

Memory verse 31:2 "Listen my son! Listen, son of my womb! Listen, my son, the answer to my prayers!"

1. In our memory verse we hear a mom pleading for her son to listen to her. How well did you listen to your own mom?

2. She was pleading at a time when she still felt like she had influence over her child. How big of a window of opportunity do you think you have in their lives?

3. How do you know when it's time to close that window?

4. How well have you transitioned from key influencer over your child to someone on the periphery of their lives?

5. She cautions Lemuel to avoid sexual sin. (vs 3) Do you think that was motivated by concern over his position as king or simply a mom's worry about her boy? Explain your answer.

6. Commentators speculate that Lemuel was actually a pet name given to Solomon which would make his mom Bathsheba. How might her personal experience with sexual sin have colored her perspective? Skim 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25 to refresh your memory if needed.

7. A large portion of these verses address alcohol use. How well did you guide your kids always from substance abuse?

8. Vs 8-9 specifically address our need to stand up for those who are marginalized by society. How likely is it that your children will speak out against injustice?

For personal growth:

Read the rest of Proverbs 31 with a specific eye on her mothering skills. Verse 26 says "She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue". How well have you accepted the responsibility of shaping your child's emotional and spiritual growth? Have you investigated the curriculum taught in your local school system? Have you considered the possibility that they will likely be taught things that run counter to your faith? What plan have you put in place to continue to be a source of wisdom and instruction for your children? Do you model the behavior and attitude you'd like your children to follow? Do you speak up for those who are powerless to speak for themselves? Have you done so in a way that your children can see and walk out? Are you the woman you want your children to think you are?

For the good of the group:

What is the greatest act of kindness one of your children has done? Is this an act you can take credit for inspiring?

The Women of Moses

Dear Ladies,

Yesterday afternoon I haaaaad to spend 3 hours holding my new grand baby. ( I know, it's tough being Memere). I suppose I should have put her down in her bassinette but I just couldn't do it. There's no more peaceful feeling in the world than holding a sleeping baby in your arms. She's 6 weeks old now and starting to smile on purpose. As I rocked her all I felt was contentment and joy.

That's the complete opposite of what I felt reading this past week's passage. Jacob deeply loved Rachel. He worked 14 years for Laban just to be able to keep her as his wife. The issue is that he couldn't keep Rachel alone. He had to accept her sister Leah or the deal was off. I wasn't there at the time but I don't imagine Jacob suffered in silence.

I don't believe Jacob intentionally set out to hurt Leah. Perhaps in time he did grow to admire and appreciate her but she would only ever be second best in his heart. Jacob knew it, Leah knew it and more importantly God knew it. He allowed her to conceive and to give her husband what Rachel couldn't -a son.

This should have been a time of celebration but how does Leah see it? She names her son Reuben, which roughly translates as "he has seen my misery". How would you like to go through eternity being known as a source of misery? Was anyone thinking this first born son would be a source of joy?

Wrong. Leah was wrong six times in total. Genesis 30:20 tells us that " this time my husband will treat me with honor because I have borne him six sons". This time? Oh how sad. She was wrong about that and she was wrong about thinking that it was OK to let her servant roll a few times in her husband's hay.

So many repeated bad choices. So much heartbreak and sorrow. And so many children caught in the crossfire. Proverbs 17:22 says "a cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones". I'll bet there were tents full of crushed spirits. The thing is, it's not a child's job to bring joy into a household. A baby should be a mirror that reflects the joy that already exists there. The shoulders of a seven pound infant aren't strong enough to carry that kind of weight.

Thankfully, in one household very precious to me, Baby Aurora doesn't have to. She's very much loved and wanted and her birth came with no big expectations. Hopefully each of you can say the same about the little ones in your life.

Love, as always, Renée

Now in to this week's lesson

Read Exodus 1: 15-2:10 along with Hebrews 11:23-28

Memory verse Hebrews 11:23 " By faith Moses' parents hid him for 3 months after he was born, because they saw that he was no ordinary child, and they e not afraid of the king's edict "

1. Describe the political atmosphere leading up to the time of Moses' birth.

2. What was the Pharoah's first plan to limit the Hebrew population?

3. How did that strategy play out?

4. What do you think it was about Moses that led his parents to believe he was special?

5. We're all about focusing on Moses' mother in this study. How does Hebrews show that she wasn't alone in her efforts to protect her son?

6. Do you think it was by choice or by chance that Moses was sent adrift in time to interrupt Pharoah's daughter's riverside stroll? Explain your answer.

7. Besides life itself, what else does Pharoah's daughter have to offer Moses?

8. How did we benefit from the privilege of Moses being adopted into Pharoah's household?

For personal growth: What is your experience with adoption and how do you feel about it? Have you or someone close to you ever faced a crisis pregnancy? What factors made that a crisis? Was it the timing of it, your marital or financial status? Wrong time or wrong man? Did you or she already have children and just couldn't handle one more? What in this world would ever cause you to surrender a child months after it was born? Have you or anyone you've known taken in an adopted child? What prompted this act of generosity? How has that gone so far? Any regrets? In any of this, was God a part of the planning and decisions? How might things have gone differently if He was?

For the good of the group

Which adopted child is closest to you and how did they benefit in being adopted?

Biblical Moms Rachel and Leah

Dear Ladies,

I really like that we got to look at Eve and Mary before either one of them became mothers. Do you remember what those days were like? That time before your first child is born feels a little magical as you wait to find out who your baby might

be. So many hopes and dreams.

We try to imagine who our little one will look like. Will she have my eyes? Will he have my husband's hair? What about the name? Hours and hours go into choosing the right name. I'm giving her my grandmother's name. Will I somehow instill that same gentle spirit my grandmother had? How many Daniels are there in kindergarten anyway? If I name her Jenni instead of Jenny can I still find an ornament with her name on it to put on the tree?

That growing baby is like our own private wellspring of joy. During pregnancy the possibilities are endless. Will my baby follow in his father's footsteps? Will he have that same uncanny ability to look at an entire stack of lumber and pick out the dozen boards that will make the best trim for our windows. Is this the child who will be the first lady president? College bound or tradesman? Leader of the band or stage hand? Next great baker or counter help? Pastor or sexton? Oh who will they be?!!!

To Mary and Eve those possibilities were not so endless. Eve had no other families to compare. Because of Eve, and every child that came after her, we so desperately need Mary's child. I can't blame Eve. Adam was right there with here, the first of many husbands who didn't stand up to their wives. They were the first two sinners but every one of us inherited that fatal flaw. All but Mary's baby-Jesus, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (no pressure there Mom). The One destined to crush the servant's head and to bring us into right relationship with the One who made us.

Our own children more likely resemble Cain and Abel than Jesus, but for those months leading up to their births, they can be anybody.

Love, as always, Renée

Now on to this week's lesson:

Read Genesis 29:31-30:24 with Genesis 35:16-29

Memory verse: Gen: 30:2 " Jacob became angry with her and said 'am I in the place of God, who kept you from having children' ?"

1. List all of Jacob's children with the women who gave birth to them.

2. How do we see Leah's emotions written all over the names of her sons?

3. Do you know anyone who had children hoping it would improve their marriage? How did that go for them?

4. What emotions surround Rachel's push to have children?

5. From what you know of Jacob and Rachel, do you think Rachel needed to have children to please Jacob? ( skim all of Gen 29 with Gen 33:1-3). Explain your answer.

6. Consider couples you know who have been unable to have children. How much of a burden has that placed on their marriage?

7. What about couples who are childless because one of them doesn't want any. Should agreement on whether or not to have kids be a deal breaker before getting married? Why or why not?

8. How might God be using you right now to bless or encourage women you know who are struggling with child-related issues in their marriage?

For personal growth:

This week's verses pretty well cover every emotion related to pregnancy- hope, fear, joy, desperation. Sadly we see a lot of negative emotions. Think back to your own pregnancies. What was the one prevailing emotion surrounding that time? What has been your greatest fear as a mom? How about joy-what's been your greatest joy? For those whose children are fully grown- did they grow into the kind of adult you'd imagined they would be? If not, is it a good thing or a bad thing that they went their own way? How might your dreams or desires for your children have caused them to follow a path that's not right for them? How can you pray for God's purpose and plan for your child even when it means surrendering you own?

For the good of the group:

Look at the names each woman in our reading gave their children then look up the name meanings you gave your own. Do any of your children fit their names? If you have more than one, which one fits best?

Biblical Moms Week

Dear Ladies,

It feels like so long since we were last together, and since we studied 1 Peter. We learned so much about how God's people are to live. We are called to be His holy, chosen people even in the midst of a society that doesn't want to know Him, who makes no room for Him in their lives or in their hearts.

Peter gave us sound advice as to how older believers are called to shepherd the younger ones around us. I love that so many of us put that into practice these past few weeks, either in VBS or Sports Camp. Can't you just imagine how God will use your kind words and gentle touch to impact those little lives?

In all those lessons I think what stuck with me most was a phrase I wrote in the margins of my Bible. "Don't Be Lion food". We had great discussion around this-especially in considering that lions don't roar when they're on the prowl, hunting. They don't want to alert their prey to their presence. They blend in, perfectly , colored by God, tawny tufts of hair blown by the same breeze that moves the Sahara grasses.

Our problem is that we don't travel in herds with one or two leaders ever vigilant watching for approaching danger. For most of our waking moments we're distracted by the busyness of life. We get caught up in work, and kids, and laundry, and groceries, and counting carbs and beating ourselves up when we can't get it all done as uickly or well as the woman next door. We doubt we're good mothers.

Discouragement, ladies. Makes us lion food. It's not wrong to want to be a good mom. It's an important job that we should strive to do well. Fortunately, we have a study for that. We're spending the next few weeks looking at some of the moms in the Bible and seeing what each has to teach us. They may not all have names, but they're important to God which makes them important to us.

See you on Tuesday. Love, as always, Renée

Now on to this week's lesson

Read Genesis 3 and Luke 1

Memory verse Genesis 3:20 " Adam named his wife Eve because she would be the mother of all the living"

1. Read Genesis 2:16-17 with Genesis 3:3. What did Eve add that God didn't actually say?

2. What consequences have you seen occur because someone twisted or added to God's word?

3. Gen. 3:6 tells us Eve game some fruit to her husband WHO WAS WITH HER!! How often do we get our husbands in trouble by our words and/or actions?

4. Prior to this even Adam and Eve stood on equal ground but Genesis 3:16 brings our first mention of submission to our husbands. How do you feel when you read that your husband is to rule over you?

5. Mary and Zechariah were both greeted by the same angel. Which of their responses most closely mirrors what yours might be if Gabriel stood before you?

6. Comepare the two responses each had in response to Gabriel's news. Why do you think Mary was allowed to speak afterwards but Zechariah was not?

7. Can you think of a time when you doubted one of God's promises?

8. One of the things for which Mary praises God is for His humbling of those who thought too highly of themselves. How has God used motherhood to humble you?

For personal growth:

How have you experienced the pain that came with Eve's sin? I'm not thinking about just the physical discomforts of pregnancy and labor. How have you experienced discomfort caused by your children- their actions, their behaviors or the people they associate with? How good a job have you done raising them? How fiercely have you prayed for them? When you pray are you most likely offering praise or petitions?Elizabeth was quick to announce that we would be blessed by the child that Mary carried. Is it sometimes hard for you to consider your child a blessing? If so, is that because of who they are or who you are?

For the good of the group:

What is the greatest blessing your children have brought to your life?

1 Peter Week #7

Dear Ladies,

I know this is late getting to you. I've been horribly distracted by the sweetest little face. I promise I'll try not to use that excuse too often.

I did enjoy our last lesson but I feel like there's a couple of verses I just glossed over. Verse 7 says "The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so you can pray". And then verse 8 tells us "above all love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins". In my head I want those to be two separate thoughts but I've come to realize how closely they're linked together.

Jesus said "Lo I am coming soon" but He didn't say how soon. He intentionally said He wouldn't tells us when because He knows us. If He mailed to me a post card the said "Look up in the sky next Wednesday" It's not likely I'd spend the next week and a half cleaning up my act. I'm a great procrastinator . I keep my house a few steps above being condemned most of the time and then clean like a mad woman in the hours before company arrives. What makes me think I'd start sooner if I knew I had 10 days until Jesus.

If we link those verses we see a different picture. Since Jesus could literally show up any minute for a second time we should be consciously thinking of all those people in our lives who haven't yet grasped that Jesus was real the first time He came. We should love them so deeply that it hurts our hearts when we think of being in Heaven without them.

I consider how many times I asked God to give me the right words to make my husband come to Christ. I can't even count them because I took to heart the verse that said "pray without ceasing". I so wanted God to change him. When I truly love deeply I see my own need to change. Now my prayers are more often for God to change my heart so I can be a suitable helpmate while I'm waiting for God to soften his heart to be more receptive to truth when he hears it. And then I allow God's love to cover my sin of pride. It's crazy to think I'm the only one to lead Peter to Jesus. His love covers a multitude of sins and I've got plenty of those. Pride is just the tip of the iceberg.

Love, as always, Renée

Now on to this week's lesson:

Read 1 Peter 5:1-14

Memory verse 5:8 " Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour"

1. Who in God's flock have you been called to serve?

2. What is your attitude like as you serve them?

3. What aspect of your service attracts others to God?

4. We've spent a lot of time in this study considering submission and here we go again. How well did you submit to your elders in your younger days and how does that compared the way you submit now?

5. Vs 6 tells us that if we humble ourselves under God's hand He will lift us up in due time. How would you describe that waiting time betweeen your humbling and your lifting?

6. How have you experienced God's care in anxious moments?

7. Do you find it easy to let go of anxiety? Why or why not?

8. Who in your life most needs to hear the truth that Satan is real and takes great joy in devouring is?

For personal growth: I see a lot about attitudes in the way Peter closes this letter, especially when he asks that we care for those under us "..not because you must but because you are willing". Is your service something you must do? What are you doing right now that you think nobody else can do? Is it because no one else has your unique skills or because no one else does it your way? How clear are you that you've been specifically called to your current service? How will you know when you've been called out? What steps are you taking to prepare others to take over for you? And since God's servants don't retire, where might God be calling you to serve next?

For the good of the group: Peter credits Silas with being a faithful brother. Who is you most faithful brother or sister?

1 Peter Week #6

Dear Ladies,

Sorry this is late. The week got away from me. So, in our last lesson Peter is all about the suffering and I'm not exactly thrilled with this idea. I don't like pain in any form, be it physical or mental. And yet, Jesus spoke of this when He said that in this world there would be trouble. Our hearts are going to break. Our children will choose paths that we don't want them to travel. They'll use language we don't want them to speak, sleep with people we'd rather not see at our Thanksgiving table and stray from the faith we tried so hard to instill in them.

People we don't even know will slash our tires because we drive our cars into a church parking lot. Co-workers will exclude us from social gatherings outside of work. I once had a co-worker set a plate full of cookies at the nurse's desk and then look me straight in the eye and tell me " These are for my friends-not you"

Here's the thing. That's not really suffering. Most of those things are annoyances, things we can shrug off and pray for heart changes. No one has ever put my head on an actual chopping block simply because I follow Christ. Losing out on cookies stung a little, but I've never been beaten, had my finances stripped away, lost my freedom, my family or my way of life.

Honestly I don't know what my response to torture would be but I know what I want it to be. I want to be a woman who sings God's praises no matter what circumstance I face. And while I want to pray protection over each of you every minute of every day that's just not life as we know it. Instead I pray that you feel God's hand in yours as long as you walk through those circumstances.

Love, as always, Renée

Now on to this week's lesson:

Read 1 Peter 4:1-19

Memory verse 4:8 " Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins"

1. Verse 1 states that whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. How can you make this statement more clear?

2. How was your life before Christ different from how it is now?

3. Who in your circle of friends and family members needs to know about the difference Christ has made in your life?

4. What holds you back from sharing your story?

5. Do you have the gift of hospitality? If not how can you change your attitude when it comes to serving in this way?

6. Jesus warned that in this world there would be trouble and Peter reiterates that warning. Why do you think we're still surprised when struggles come our way?

7. What has been your most recent trial?

8. Who benefited most by watching how you faced that?

For personal growth:

Verse 16 says " However if you do suffer as a Christian do not be ashamed but praise God that you carry that name". Are you ashamed because of some struggle you've experienced? Has that shame stopped you from reaching out to others? How might that have robbed you of the joy of being lifted up by others? Are there struggles that are easier to share with non-believers than with your friends at church? Is that because you think worldly friends are less likely to look down on you? How might your situation change if each of your believing friends followed Peter's advice in verse 8 to love each other deeply above all?

For the good of the group:

Not that I want any of us to suffer but how can we pray for you so that you do so in a way that honors God?

1 Peter Week #5

Dear Ladies,

     What is it about the word submission that makes us want to see red? We hear it and automatically think subservient. Sub means lower than or below ad we don't wat to be below anyone. We want to come out on top, to be the boss, to have the last word. Well, here's a thought. When I married Peter I wan't told to leave my brains at the altar. God did not create me to be my husband's slave. Eve came from Adams's side not his toenails. 

     I don't always have a clear picture of what submission is, but I have a good idea of what it is not. Submission isn't giving up my rights to express my own thoughts, ideas, and opinions. I'm not a Stepford wife. I am my own person uniquely created by God and chosen by my husband. Our opinions often differ. If he doesn't try pull me away from God I can relinquish my right to be right. 

     When Peter sees chicken thawing and makes the comment that he's craving burgers, what do I gain by digging in my heels and insisting on cooking the chicken anyway? He eats a meal he didn't want and I cook a a meal that's not appreciated. No one wins. There's disharmony. It's so much easier to thaw a pound of hamburger and make fries instead of mashed potatoes. I can submit to his food preferences. I can record the movie I want to watch on the Hallmark Channel while he watches World War 2 unfold on the History Channel. I can leave fabric softener out when I wash his clothes because he doesn't want to wear flannel shirts that smell like flowers. I can honor his requests to spend less and save more. I can listen to him explain why his candidate is best. The beauty is I don't have to vote for his candidate. Submission does not mean that only my husband's ideas matter. 

     Paul got it right in Roman's 12:18 " If it is possible-as much as it depends on you- live  at peace with everyone"   Peace follows submission, and our peaceful hearts just might be what attracts the people we love to the God we love. 

     Love, as always, Renée 

Now on to this week's lesson

Read 1 Peter 3:8-22

Memory verse 3:15 "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to  everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect"

1. Right off Peter tells us to be like-minded. How does our agreement on non-disputable matters grow us and grow our church?

2. How do the last two lessons on submission help you when the Bible isn't so black and white?

3. The last warnings in verse 8 address our attitudes. Where do you need to be more loving, compassionate and/or humble?

4. Verse 9 tells us not to repay insult for insult. Give an example of a time when you've seen someone's witness ruined by a quick retort or cutting remark?

5. What blessing might we expect when sweetness pours out of our mouths rather than bitterness?

6. I'm stealing God's question here. "Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?"

7. Have you or someone you know ever suffered for doing good? Describe that experience 

8. Verse 21 seems to suggest that we are saved through baptism. How can you corrrect wrong thinking that might arise after reading this verse?

For personal growth: Our memory verse tells us to always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks why we have hope. Do you feel prepared to defend your faith? When was the last time you shared your testimony? If the pastor asked you on Sunday morning to tell your story could you do so? Who in your life could benefit the most if they heard who you were before Christ and who you are now? How could you explain to them that Jesus made the difference?  Is there enough of a difference for others to notice or does your holiness only shine on Sunday mornings?

For the good of the group:  How have you felt the Lord's eyes and ears on you this past week?

1 Peter Week #4

Dear Ladies,

     While we were walking recently I used the phrase "I'd rather see a sermon" but couldn't remember where I'd heard it. I want to give credit where it's due. That comes from a poem from Edgar Guest entitled "Sermons we See" Fortunately it's public domain now so I can add it to our lesson and it can be posted on the church website with our other lessons. I encourage you to go online and read the whole thing, but here's the first verse

     I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day

     I'd rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way

     The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear

     Fine council is confusing but example's always clear 

     And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creed

     For to see good put in action is what everybody needs

     Ladies, we are to be walking sermons as we go about our daily lives. The way we interact with our neighbors, our co-workers, even our companions  in the check out line matters. We should be the ray of sunshine in someone's dark day. And as this passage dealt with slaves and masters and submitting to authority, we should model a submissive heart in our workplaces. Be the employee who comes to work on time, ready to honor the folks who issue our paychecks. That means we don't start clearing our throats or faking a cough on Wed and Thu so we can take a mental health day on Friday. We don't use the business copier so we can save on paper and ink at home. And we don't ever bad-mouth our boss to our fellow employees even if you really could do her job with one hand tied behind your back. 

     The way we conduct ourselves in public is a direct reflection of the way we fill ourselves in private. We need to be women who reflect to the world that we are filled with God's Spirit. People we don't even know watch how we respond to what life throws our way. This means that if we'd have a fish decal on the back of our cars we probably shouldn't pull into the corner tavern or naughty nightie store. Nor should we cut someone off in traffic and then give them a one-finger salute as we zoom on by them. 

     Here's just a bit more from Edgar Guest's poem. "And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true, but I'd rather get my lessons by observing what you do". Let's strive to be walking sermons. 

          Love, as always, Renée 

Now on to this week's lesson

Read 1 Peter 3:1-7

Memory verse 3:5 " For this is the way the holy women of the past, who put their hope in God, used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands"

1. Verse 1 tells us that wives are to submit to their husbands as eagerly as Christ submitted. Do you think Peter is saying to submit like Christ did to His death on the cross, or does he mean to submit like Christ did to God's will in general? Is there a difference? Explain your answer. 

2. What is the benefit in doing so according to this passage?

3. What in particular does this passage say is most attractive to our husbands?

4. What do you use to make yourself more attractive to your husband?

5. These verses give Sarah as an example of submission. Can you think of another example from the Bible of a wife who submitted well to her husband? 

6. How can you model that wife's submission in your own marriage?

7. Verse 6 says that we're Sarah's daughters if we do right and do not give way to fear. What is the most fearful aspect of submission?

8. Why do you think Peter used 6 verses to convince women to submit but only one verse to identify a husband's proper response?

For personal growth:

1 Peter 3:3 cautions that our beauty should not come from outward adornment. Consider your spending habits so far this year. How much have you spent on hair cuts, hair products, make-up, tooth whitening, perfume,  clothes, shoes and jewelry? Compare that with the amount you've tithed and given to charity. What do your spending habits reveal about your priorities? If a forensic accountant tracked where your money went would he know you were a woman of faith? The world says that we have to look good to feel good. Have you fallen for this lie? How can you balance the desire to look attractive outwardly with the teaching in our passage to be attractive inwardly?

For the good of the group:

Who is the least physically attractive inwardly beautiful woman you know?

1 Peter Week #3

Dear Ladies,

     I was re-reading our verses from this week and got caught up in the very first one. "Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you...". God is inviting us to be active thinkers. Society may want to characterize us as blind sheep, foolishly stumbling in the darkness of our own confusion. Well, not so fast society. God is telling us here to engage our whole brains, to examine the evidence and come to the logical conclusion. 

     It is logical to believe in Jesus. Just about every respected historian on the planet religious or secular- agrees that Jesus was a real historical figure. The Bible may be our best record of Christ but it's not the only one. Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian who lived from AD 55-120  confirmed that Christ was executed by Pilate. Flavius Josephus a Jewish historian and Pharisee who lived from AD 37-100 recorded that the Christ who performed miracles was executed by Pilate. There's another man known as Pliny the younger, who actively executed Christians when they refused to renounce Christ,  referred to Jesus as the God of the Christians. 

     Modern historians prefer not to recognize that the dividing line of time itself is Christ's birth. They prefer that we use the initials CE and BCE the CE standing for common era. That seems kind of silly to me. There's nothing common about the God of the universe walking on this Earth. Nor is it common for any man to willingly lay down His life for a world full of broken, dirty, sinful people. And there is nothing common about a transformed life that comes when we open our hearts and our minds to the possibility that Jesus is who He claimed to be. 

     Peter is saying that once we engage our minds we engage our hope and we set that hope on the grace only Christ can bring. It's that grace that allows Him, in full glory, to look at not-so-glorious us and say that there's a place for us at the table He set. I don't have to think about that invitation for too terribly long. God says I'm His. And which of us doesn't want to hear Him say " That one right there- she's mine."

     Love, as always, Renée 

Now on to this week's lesson

Read 1 Peter 2:11-25

Memory verse 2:16 "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves"

1. Have you ever spent any amount of time immersed in a foreign culture? Describe that experience.

2. How did that experience shape your understanding of the first couple of verses in this week's passage?

3. Which aspect of today's culture seems to wage war with you and how willingly do you engage in battle?

4. To whom does Peter tells us to submit and how well are you doing so?

5. What are the benefits of submission according to these verses?

6. Are there governmental authorities or regulations to which you have difficulty submitting?

7. How might people confuse God's freedom with a pass to do whatever they wish?

8. How is God calling you to be a beacon of light in your home, your community or your workplace?

For personal growth: 

Verse 12 states " Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong they may see your good deeds and glorify God by them." How do the unbelievers in your life view you? Do your words match your walk or does your walk ruin your witness? Are you an example that you'd like them to follow? How often do your words and your actions invite unbelievers to engage in discussion about God? How prepared are you to answer their questions when they arise? How can you be holy without coming across as holier than thou?

For the good of the group:

Can you tell of a time when you received unjust punishment or suffering and what your response was to that situation?

1 Peter Week #2

Dear Ladies,

     What a beautiful day we had for walking this week   It was fun to admire the many shades of green found only in springtime, to see all those wildflowers poking out along the trail and listen to the birdsong. With all that beauty all I could think about was how merciful our God is. Only He would create so much beauty for people so undeserving. It brings to mind verse 8 "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him and even though you do not see Him, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy"

Our joy is inexpressible. There aren't enough words to explain all that God has done and has planned for our lives. We can face horrible tragedy with the knowledge that God works all things together for our good. And we can hang onto hope when others would cave in from their sorrows. 

     Peter was a man well-familiar with sorrows. After years of walking side by side with Jesus, sometimes on land sometimes on water. After vowing he would never betray his friend- look at their last moments together. Jesus asks Peter for prayer support in the garden and Peter falls asleep on the job. Jesus asks him to calmly accept how His life on Earth would end and Peter chops off the ear of the nearest soldier. Peter vows to love Jesus forever and the last words Jesus hears Peter say are "I don't know this man you're talking about"

     I love that Jesus didn't leave Peter to stew in his guilt for long. But I also love that He gave His fiend a season of sorrow. From the cross He told John to watch out for His mom but He never asked John to watch out for Peter. Peter needed to experience humility, sorrow and anguish in order to truly grasp the inexpressible joy of being lifted from his pit of despair. Without that sorrow we don't have these words "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us a new birth into a living hope". 

We need these words, and all the ones the follow in this sweet letter. How fun it'll be to walk them out with you 

          Love, as always, Renée 

Now on to this week's lesson

Read 1 Peter 1;13-2:10

Memory verse 1:21 "Through Him you believe in God who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, so your faith and hope are in God"

1. Society often views Christianity as a cult and Christians as blind followers. How does this passage negate those beliefs?

2. How might you respectfully challenge false assumptions about your faith? 

3. Our memory verse says that through Him (meaning Jesus) we believe in God. How do these words empower and embolden you to correct wrong thinking that there's any other way?

4. Who has been a shining example of sincere, deep, heartfelt love in your life?

5. What does personal holiness look like to you?

6. How successful have you been when it comes to ridding yourself of all malice, deception, envy and slander?

7. Are there certain individuals who make this process more difficult?

8. Who in your life is still stumbling over the Cornerstone and how might God be using this lesson to help you counsel them?

For personal growth:

Here we go again taking a look at predestination. 1Peter 2:8 tells us "They stumble because they disobey the message-which is also what they were destined for"   Another translation reads "so they meet the fate that was planned for them". And in The Message it says "They trip and fall because they do not obey , just as predicted". What exactly do you believe and how did you reach that conclusion? Do you think God specifically chooses His followers or does He just know who'll follow and who won't? Does this concept make you bolder in sharing your faith? What if God has chosen you to be the one to call your friends and family members out of darkness? If they are predestined to respond to truth, what if you fail to share it? How does this tie in with your concept of free will?  Did you choose to follow Christ because you wanted to or because it was God's plan all along? How does this change or strengthen your view of who God is and what He does?

For the good of the group:

I propose a math problem. At the time of sale, most market lambs weigh 140 lbs and go for an average of $3.25 per pound. Using these numbers calculate how much it would have cost to buy one unblemished lamb per year for every year that you've needed your sins forgiven

1 Peter Week #1

Dear Ladies,

     I love that we've spent the last 5 weeks reading books that seldom get studied. They're just so short and yet each one is packed with nuggets of truth. 

     Obadiah led us back to an ancient family feud. We saw sibling rivalry taken to the extreme so that 1000 years after Jacob and Esau were born there was still bitter rivalry between the nations each spawned. If only they'd have had a chance to hear Psalm 133 " How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity". We’re lucky. We can read those words, and we have their example of what not to do and the Holy Spirit to convict us when we come close to modeling bad behavior. 

     We left Edom in the dust and read Philemon, the shortest and most personal of all Paul's letters . We got a little insight into Paul's heart as he begs for leniency for Onesimus based on love.  We also saw the depth of Paul's trust as he released his beloved friend back to the slave's former master. He didn't know what the outcome would be, but he knew that God was in control and that was enough. 

    In John 3 we saw two more examples of godly friendships with Gaius and Demetrius being recognized for their good character  Sadly, it wasn't all happy happy joy joy. We also took a good look at  Diotrephes and saw him taken to task for his divisiveness. This inspired me to examine my own heart to see how well I build others up and where I allow division to occur because I keep my mouth shut rather than speak out. I'm a work in progress friends. 

     Then in 2 John and Jude we examined the divisiveness of false doctrine and the dangers of false teaching. Corrupt teachers have a perverted view of God's grace and liberty. They prefer their own ideas to God's truth. Ultimately there's a price to pay and Jude does a good job of reminding his readers that they need to do two things : keep themselves from sin and rescue others from stumbling towards it. 

      This in part is why I look forward to our next study. Peter does a great job of putting all of this teaching into perspective. I look forward to spending the next several weeks hearing wisdom from a man who could be known as Christ's right hand man from the very beginning. I love that we get to see the after Easter version of the man who fell on his face so often before. And I love that we get to walk through this together. See you each next Tuesday. 

     Love, as always, Renée 

  Now on to this week’s lesson 

Read 1 Peter 1:1-12

Memory verse 1:8 “ Though you do not see Him you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexplicable and glorious joy”

1. Look at a bible map and try to figure out how far people scattered to practice and protect their faith. 

2. Verse 2 speaks of people being chosen according to the foreknowledge if God. Do you believe this means some are not chosen and how does this tie in with your understanding of salvation?

3. Where in your life could you use an abundance of grace and peace?

4. How have you experienced God’s great mercy?

5. How hard is it for you to imagine the permanence of your salvation?

6. Have you ever tried to seal the deal with works or extra effort on your part?

7. How might these words give you the confidence to correct wrong thinking about works-based salvation?

8. Peter speaks of the prophets comforting future believers. Which verse from any Old Testament prophet brings you comfort?

For personal growth: Vs 6 reads “in all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials”. Are you prepared to suffer for your faith? How much are you willing to endure? How much have you endured already?  Are you willing to lose friends, family or finances for your faith?  When you read about people who are martyred for your faith do you secretly fear you would deny Christ to protect yourself or your loved ones?

For the good of the group:

What does it mean to you to read that our inheritance ( read Salvation) is guarded in Heaven?

Jude Week #1

Dear Ladies,

     Couldn't you just imagine what it would be like to have John, the one Jesus loved, as our pastor. We might be a problem free church. Yeah, right!!! John had a hand in the church he was addressing and look at those people. There was a lot of good tainted by one bad apple. 

     Gaius-the intended recipient of this letter-is commended for his goodness, for the way he walks out his faith, and for the welcoming environment he creates for others. Likewise, Demetrius is commended for setting an example of faith that's worth following. These two men are amazing servants who encourage and build up those around them. Salt and light, ladies. Salt and light. 

     And then there's Diotrephes who is a disrupting, discouraging, self-serving leader who doesn't seem to care who he climbs on or stomps down as he claws his way to the top. Bad as he appears to the community around him, news of his ways have traveled all the way to Ephesus where John was staying when he wrote this letter. 

     I'm going to enjoy meeting John when I get to Heaven. When I picture him in  my head he's meek, soft spoken, gentle even. That's why I enjoy seeing this side of him. He's promising his friend that he's heard the concerns of his heart, knows the trouble in his community and has a plan to address the trouble maker face to face. 

     So often we shy away from confrontation. Have you ever hidden a receipt from your husband because you spent more than you wanted to explain? Have you told a friend her hideous new hair color " brought out her eyes" because you just couldn't share her joy over her new look? Ever put your kids in time out " until your dad gets home" because you're tired of being mean mommy? Have you considered that God gives you little ways to practice confrontation and perfect diplomacy so you'll be prepared to confront your own Diotrephes? Even Jesus who embodies every spiritual fruit overturned coin filled tables and spoke truth to white washed tomb-type leaders. 

    If we are to be salt and light, we have to accept that sometimes salt stings and light can hurt the eyes. But I trust that God will give us the right balance of truth and love if we only ask. 

     Love, as always, Renée 

Now on to this week's lesson

Read Jude 

Memory verse Jude 1:20-21 " but you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life"

1. How does Jude identify himself?

2. Why do you think he claims brotherhood with James but not with Jesus?

3. What does Jude originally want to speak about when he started this letter?

4. What does he address instead?

5. Have you ever experienced false teaching in a church you attended?

6. What was your response then and how might you have a different response today?

7. Vs 17-23 fall under the heading " A Call to Perservere". Another translation reads " A Call to Remain Faithful". What tools does Jude offer to help us faithfully persevere?

8. In verse 22 he invites us to be merciful to those who doubt. Who are the doubters in your life and how well do you convey mercy to them?

For personal growth:

Here's yet another book addressing false teaching. What is your response when the truth of God is under attack? How often do you take advantage of the spiritual weapons at your disposal? When was the last time you even read Ephesians 6 where Paul lists the assorted pieces of God's armor? How willing are you to stand against false teaching? How might God be preparing you today to confront false teaching tomorrow? How prepared do you feel right now?

For the good of the group: How has God kept you from stumbling

Last Week’s Study

Dear Ladies,

     I almost forgot this week's lesson. Sorry about that. Time got away from me. I've been thinking a lot about last week's lesson. I don't think we can be told often enough to watch out for false teaching. It's so destructive the way people twist God's words. Here's just one example of how this happens in today's world. 

     Deuteronomy 12:23 says " But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life so you must not eat the life with the meat" This is sound advice for a number of reasons, the first of which is that humans lack the ability to digest blood. It curdles in your stomach and makes you throw up. Add to that the fact that when  Moses was writing down dietary laws there was no form of refrigeration available. You had to drain the blood out of an animal or the meat would spoil faster and become unsafe to eat. 

     I've never found a place in Scripture where God prohibits blood transfusions and yet this is the verse Jehovah Witnesses point to as the basis of their ban on receiving any type of blood products. Let's be clear here. If there ever comes a day when I'm shot in the chest I want as many pints of blood as I can get and I'm pretty sure God will be OK with that. If I were not familiar with God's word I might be led astray by other's beliefs or strong opinions. Fortunately we have a great resource available to us between the front and back covers of our bibles. It's easier now more than ever to find the truth in God's Word. There's bible apps, concordances, and Google. We attend a church where God's truth is held in high esteem and pastors willing to preach it. More importantly we have the presence of the Holy Spirit to convince and convict us. 

"My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me". Jesus promises that when we follow He will never lead us astray. All we have to do is ask Him if we're hearing truth spoken. And if we're not we have John's words to fall back on "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. " Hospitality ends where lies begin, and that's OK. 


Now on to this week's lesson 

Read 3 John

Memory verse 3 John 1:4 "I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth"

1. Which 3 men are mentioned in 3 John and how does John describe them?

2. John mentions the condition of his friend's  soul. How likely is it that you would take notice  of your own friend's soul?

3. Based on what we read in the first 8 verses what spiritual gifts does Gaius possess?

4. Which of these would you most like to see developed in yourself?

5. How does hospitality tie in with spreading the gospel?

6. Where does Diotrephes fall short?

7. Have you ever been in a position where you had to confront a friend, neighbor or co-worker about their unacceptable attitude or actions? Describe what that was like.

8. What do you think Demetrius does especially well? ( there's no right or wrong answer to this-use your imagination)

For personal growth:

So much of 3 John revolves around the theme of hospitality. How hospitable are you? Is your home a welcoming place? Does that depend on who's knocking on the door? Does your heart have room for strangers or are you only willing to entertain family and friends? Have you ever opened your house to a total stranger? How were you blessed by that? Perhaps you've been on the receiving end of some truly exceptional hospitality. How did that make you feel? Be assured that not all of us have been given this gift. What spiritual gift have you been given and how are you using that gift? 

For the good of the group:

How would you like to be described?

Philemon Week #2

Dear Ladies,

     I just want to camp for a little while longer on Philemon vs12 "I am sending him-who is my very heart-back to you"   In the New Living Translation it goes "I am sending him back to you, and with him comes my heart". God has a way of linking believers' hearts together in a way that the world can never quite understand. I believe that we need to experience the intensity of God's love for ourselves before we  can truly love as He intends. After that it gets so much easier. I feel like I'm at a point now when I can love people that I don't even really like. 

    That's a statement only a fellow believer can understand. I could love the girls my sons brought home even though I knew they were  going to break their little teenage hearts. I can love the drunks that spit and swear at me just as easily as I love the sweet little 4 year old who swallowed a penny and 3 legos. 

     The love God instills in my heart let's me reason with the unreasonable, even after they start tugging at my last frayed nerve. It also lets me bend down to my pregnant daughter-in-law's belly and whisper words of love to my future granddaughter. That's right ladies' Emily's having a girl. Little Aurora Grace Gaucher already occupies room in my heart and she won't even be here until July. 

     All this to say I understand Paul's anguish as he's releasing Onesimus back to his owner. It permeates each word in this letter. It's not like when you tell your kids that stray puppy has a real home. Onesimus came as a runaway slave. His owner has every right to have him stoned to death just to discourage his other slaves from following suit. Paul doesn't know what he's sending him to but he's leaving as a new creation in Christ. Paul has come to depend upon this man to serve his own needs as well as those of the body of believers. It's easy to understand the desire to keep him around. Good Christ-filled brothers and sisters are hard to find and even harder to let go of. Take time today to thank God for each one that he's placed in your heart and cherish every moment you have together. 

     Love, as always, Renée 

Now on to this week's lesson

Read 2 John

Memory verse 2 John :6 " Love means doing what God has commanded, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you have heard from the beginning"

1. Some scholars believe the "Lady" John wrote to is actually the church. Do you agree or disagree? Support your answer. 

2. What one command does he have for this woman?

3. How loving is your own walk?

4. Other than Christ on the cross, what is the most meaningful example of love that you've ever seen?

5. John cautions against false teaching. How confident are you that you can discern truth?

6. How willing are you to be a woman who boldly corrects false teaching?

7. Ephesians 4:15 commands us to speak the truth in love. Have you ever leaned so far on the side of love that you shied away from truth?

8. When have you spoken solid truth but missed the boat on love?

For personal growth:

We read strong words in vs 10. "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching do not take them into your house or welcome them"  Othe translations say don't allow them in your meeting. John goes on to state that anyone who welcomes them shares in their wickedness. Are you silently condoning faulty or false teaching because you're afraid to speak the truth in love? What would you do if the pastor misspoke from the pulpit? How likely is it that you would confront him or call him out? What if falsehood came from your neighbor's mouth? What if it struck closer to home? What if your own child or sibling is the one who brings false teaching? Would you be able to turn them away? What are the consequences if you don't?

For the good of the group:

Who do you know that walks the line between truth and love especially well?

Philemon Week #1

Dear Ladies,

     Sometimes life is just unfair. People hurt us and no one seems to notice or care. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the world just keeps spinning. It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking it doesn’t matter what we do. When we see the rich and powerful succeed no matter who they hurt, step on or completely disregard it can be so darn frustrating. 

     I think we grow frustrated because we want human justice. We fail to comprehend divine perfect justice which gets meted out in God’s perfect timing. 

     By the time Obadiah comes around the feud between Israel and Edom is centuries old and God has lots of reasons to be angry over how the Edomites have treated His chosen people. Mostly, I believe He’s saddened by their perpetual hatred of each other. Hatred between brothers is always sad. It’s made worse when it’s passed along to children, grandchildren and each subsequent generation. 

     I once had a pastor tell me that the Hebrew word for extreme blood-thirsty violence is “chamas”. This might be a stretch on my part but it sounds a lot like Hamas, the violent sect of Palestinians whose life mission is to wipe out the Jews. Interesting that this is where Esau’s descendants settled. 

     I’m not suggesting that every sibling rivalry will eventually threaten world peace. What I am saying, and so is Obadiah, is that there will be a day and time when God will say “enough!” to this sibling rivalry. That will not be a pretty day and I don’t think any of us wants to be around to see it. But that day is coming. When God makes a promise He always keeps it. His plans cannot be thwarted and His justice will come in His way and in His timing. 

     In Micah God tells us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. It’s kind of sad that Esau never learned that lesson. Hopefully we can. 

     Love as always, Renée 

Now on to this week’s lesson. 

Read Philemon 

Memory verse:12 “I am sending him-who is my very heart- back to you”

1. How well do you demonstrate love for your fellow believers?

2. How can you be a source of love for the women in this group or for our fellow church members?

3. What would need to change in your life before others considered you to be a source of joy?

4. Paul, writing from prison, likely faced discouragement. Who is God calling you to encourage right now?

5. Can you think of a time when you had the power and authority to force someone to succumb to your will, but instead allowed them to make their own decision? Describe those circumstances. 

6. How easy was it for you to set aside your will in that instance?

7. How confident were you that they’d make the right choice?

8. How might God be using you right now to encourage another believer to let go of someone or something that they love?

For personal growth:

Paul mentions Epaphras in his closing. This is the same Epaphras who shared the gospel with the Colossians. How cool is it that rather than wrapping himself in bitterness, he used his time in prison to tell Paul about the body of believers in Colassae?  What  is your attitude like when life doesn’t turn out the way you imagine it should?  What imprisons you?  How can you be a bold spokesperson for your own church?  What does your church do especially well? Where does it need to grow?  How willing are you to be an instrument of change in your church?

For the good of the group:

Who is most likely to refer to you as their beloved co-worker as Paul does if Philemon?


Dear Ladies,

     Sometimes life is just unfair. People hurt us and no one seems to notice or care. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the world just keeps spinning. It’s easy to fall into the habit of thinking it doesn’t matter what we do. When we see the rich and powerful succeed no matter who they hurt, step on or completely disregard it can be so darn frustrating. 

     I think we grow frustrated because we want human justice. We fail to comprehend divine perfect justice which gets meted out in God’s perfect timing. 

     By the time Obadiah comes around the feud between Israel and Edom is centuries old and God has lots of reasons to be angry over how the Edomites have treated His chosen people. Mostly, I believe He’s saddened by their perpetual hatred of each other. Hatred between brothers is always sad. It’s made worse when it’s passed along to children, grandchildren and each subsequent generation. 

     I once had a pastor tell me that the Hebrew word for extreme blood-thirsty violence is “chamas”. This might be a stretch on my part but it sounds a lot like Hamas, the violent sect of Palestinians whose life mission is to wipe out the Jews. Interesting that this is where Esau’s descendants settled. 

     I’m not suggesting that every sibling rivalry will eventually threaten world peace. What I am saying, and so is Obadiah, is that there will be a day and time when God will say “enough!” to this sibling rivalry. That will not be a pretty day and I don’t think any of us wants to be around to see it. But that day is coming. When God makes a promise He always keeps it. His plans cannot be thwarted and His justice will come in His way and in His timing. 

     In Micah God tells us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. It’s kind of sad that Esau never learned that lesson. Hopefully we can. 

     Love as always, Renée 

Now on to this week’s lesson. 

Read Philemon 

Memory verse:12 “I am sending him-who is my very heart- back to you”

1. How well do you demonstrate love for your fellow believers?

2. How can you be a source of love for the women in this group or for our fellow church members?

3. What would need to change in your life before others considered you to be a source of joy?

4. Paul, writing from prison, likely faced discouragement. Who is God calling you to encourage right now?

5. Can you think of a time when you had the power and authority to force someone to succumb to your will, but instead allowed them to make their own decision? Describe those circumstances. 

6. How easy was it for you to set aside your will in that instance?

7. How confident were you that they’d make the right choice?

8. How might God be using you right now to encourage another believer to let go of someone or something that they love?

For personal growth:

Paul mentions Epaphras in his closing. This is the same Epaphras who shared the gospel with the Colossians. How cool is it that rather than wrapping himself in bitterness, he used his time in prison to tell Paul about the body of believers in Colassae?  What  is your attitude like when life doesn’t turn out the way you imagine it should?  What imprisons you?  How can you be a bold spokesperson for your own church?  What does your church do especially well? Where does it need to grow?  How willing are you to be an instrument of change in your church?

For the good of the group:

Who is most likely to refer to you as their beloved co-worker as Paul does if Philemon?