life

Need Some Cooks in this Editorial Kitchen

I’ve been struggling with the intro to my Bible study. I didn’t love it so I rewrote it. But now I’m thinking maybe I should have left well-enough (but not great) alone.

The intro has two sections – a prologue and instructions on getting started. Will some of you kind souls put on your editor visors, read both choices and HELP ME? Please!

Prologue: This?

In late November 1997, I spoke at a lovely Advent by Candlelight gathering.  At the end of the evening one of the event organizers pressed a book into my hands in a way that told me I was supposed to have it.  The title of the book was Fashioned for Intimacy, by Jane Hansen and Marie Powers.  Since I was not married at the time and since I did not feel compelled to read it, I took it home and stuck it on a shelf.

In March 2002 I drove home from a sexual abstinence conference, my head spinning with information on human papilloma virus, cervical cancer, cervical dysplasia and all the STDs that are epidemic among teenagers.  I gulped at the thought of friends who had cervical dysplasia and had no idea it was associated with HPV and cancer.  I thought about all my young clients at the pregnancy help center who were putting themselves at risk for grave diseases and didn’t know it.  Statistically, many already had them.  The reality of it suddenly overwhelmed me and I started to cry.  Through tears I pleaded, “Lord, you have to warn them!”  In that moment I knew that He was planning to do just that, and He was going to use me to do it, and it wasn’t going to be easy.  I left my position as the executive director of a pregnancy help center and started a ministry of speaking to teens and their parents about making healthy choices.

In May 2009 I spoke at a Christian school, where I had been speaking annually for several years. That year, as one of the teachers walked me to my car on the fourth and final day of presentations, she expressed dismay over two graduates who had gotten pregnant just out of high school.  As I drove home, I wondered why, when it comes to dating, so many Christian kids go the way of the world.  Why the divorce rate among Christian marriages is almost identical to that of the general population. Why Christian young women – who know they are treasured by God – chase after defilement.  Why do they hear and not heed? Why is the church so ineffective in preparing our youth for healthy, lasting marriages?  Why, when we have such a big and able God, are so many relationships a mess?

As soon as I got home I fell to my knees and asked God those very questions.  I asked Him to please explain to me what our purity programs are missing.

He did.

He took me right back to the beginning of Scripture, showed me what went wrong and how it still plays out today.  He compelled me to read the book that had been pressed into my hands twelve years earlier.  Through that book, He introduced me to Dr. Katharine C. Bushnell’s 100 year old book, God’s Word to Women, which He used to get this ball rolling.

Or This?

It was a course fraught with danger and I was running scared – hurdling razor-sharp wires, dodging swinging pendulums, carefully and precisely maneuvering through intricate laser webs.  I moved with focused intensity and the terrifying expectation that I would make a fatal mistake.  As I approached each obstacle I braced myself for the big “Game Over.”

When I finally made it to the end I was mentally exhausted yet exhilarated over having survived with only a few cuts and burns. I wanted to do it again.  Once I knew it was possible to survive the maze, I wanted to see if I could come out completely unscathed.

But a knowing told me I couldn’t.  It told me that everyone gets only one turn.   I could, however, go back and cheer others on; talk them through it; warn them of impending dangers.

That somewhat prophetic dream pretty well sums up what I’ve been doing these last fifteen years – talking teens and parents through the minefields of adolescence and dating, cheering them on in hopes of getting them through unscathed. And yet with all of the genius that I and others impart, why, I wondered, do so many young people continue to rush toward defilement?  Why is the divorce rate among Christian couples almost identical to the divorce rate at large? Why, when we have such a big and able God, are so many relationships such a mess?

I seriously wanted to know, so I got down on my knees and asked. I begged God to show me what our purity programs are missing and He did.  He took me right back to the beginning of the Scriptures and showed me where the church has gotten some things wrong.  He shed a radically new light on my old understanding.   Now I am extending that light to you.

Which prologue do you like better? Does either one pique your interest in the study?

Getting Started: This?

This Bible study is my attempt to share what God taught me.  My prayer is that as you embark on this study you will set your mind to understanding and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all Truth.  We are going to dig deep so put on your thinking cap.

Some of the lessons are going to be a bit heavy.  On those days, grab the hand of the One who loves you.

Some lessons will challenge what you may have previously been taught.  If so, don’t be afraid.  Genuine faith isn’t so fragile that it will fall apart if you take a fresh look at Scripture and even question a few things.  Jesus often challenged the understanding of the religious leaders of His day and opposed the status quo.  Sadly, fear and/or love of the system of belief they had established did not allow them to consider new Truth.   Be brave.  Open your mind and let God shed fresh light on the Scriptures.  And please don’t just take my word for it.  Be a Berean (Acts 17:11).

Search the Scriptures and see for yourself.  My aim is not to convince you to think what I think. My aim is to set you in the Scriptures to seek what God thinks.  The last thing we need is more man-made doctrine.

I hope you will come each week ready to share what God has said to you through your study.  The Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you as you begin this journey. Heaven esteems you when you set your mind to understanding.

Or This?

This is no fluffy, feel-good Bible study, though I hope parts of it will make you feel good.  Parts of it might make you mad.  It will definitely challenge you spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  If you are young, I hope it will greatly improve your future.  If you are older, I hope it will bring healing to your past – and greatly impact the futures of the young people in your life. My prayer is that as you embark on this study you will set your mind to understanding and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all Truth.

We are going to dig deep so put on your thinking cap.  Some of the lessons are going to be a bit heavy.  On those days, grab the hand of the One who loves you.  Some lessons will challenge what you may have previously been taught.  If so, don’t be afraid.  Genuine faith isn’t so fragile that it will fall apart if you take a fresh look at Scripture and even question a few things.  Jesus often opposed the status quo and challenged the understanding of the religious leaders of His day. Be brave.  Open your mind and let God shed fresh light on the Scriptures.  And please don’t take my word for anything.  Be a Berean (Acts 17:11).

Search the Scriptures and see for yourself.  My aim is not to convince you to think what I think. The last thing we need is more man-made doctrine. My aim is to lead you through the Scriptures to discover a more accurate understanding of what God thinks.

I’ve led enough groups through this study to know that it’s going to be a really tough task. We Christians have a very strong tendency to hold the Scriptures up to our understanding rather than holding our understanding up to them.  When we read a new interpretation of them our knee-jerk reaction is to declare, “That’s not what I’ve been taught!” And then we dismiss the new interpretation, or worse yet, we hate it.

The aim of this Bible study is to rethink some of the things we have been taught; to hold our preconceived notions up to the light to see how well they actually match Scripture.  The goal is not to hold this Bible study up to see how well it confirms our preconceived notions.  Did you hear me? The aim of this study is to rethink some of the things we’ve been taught! If that is out of the question for you at this stage in your Christian walk, then put the study aside until the Spirit nudges you to pick it up again.

As you proceed, ask the Holy Spirit to show you heaven’s perspective.  It’s His job to guide you into all Truth.

I hope you will do this study with a small group and share what God says to you. Each chapter is broken up into five sections, that way you can do one section per day and still have two days for catch up if life gets busy and you get behind.

The Lord bless you as you begin this journey. Heaven esteems you, dear scholar, when you set your mind to understanding.

I wrote the second “Getting Started” after I led a few groups through the study and realized just how hard it is for people to rethink. Is the rewrite too harsh?

Does either “getting started” pique your interest in the study?

I’m hoping the choices are obvious to you because they aren’t obvious to me – which makes me wonder whether I should go with option 3: neither.

Be kind, be gentle and be HONEST! And if you can’t be kind, gentle and honest then just be honest.

Thank you and God bless you for reading all 1780 words!

#notobvious

 

Standard