Bible Questions Answered in Philippians

  • Here’s the book of Philippians turned into a catechistic question and answer format:Philippians wordle What should be our attitude during imprisonment or persecution?  We should be confident in the Lord and bold to speak the word without fear knowing that to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:12-14, 1:18b-26)
  • How should we live to be worthy of Christ?  We should stand firm in one spirit with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by our opponents, but being willing to suffer for Jesus sake (Philippians 1:27-30)
  • How should we relate to one another in the church? We should be in the same mind and same love in full accord and doing nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than ourselves. Let each of us look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4)
  • How does Christ provide us an example in how to relate to each other? Jesus didn’t count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:5-8)
  • How will Jesus be honored by all? He has the name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11)
  • How should we work out our salvation? Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in us (Philippians 2:12-13)
  • How should we relate to the world? We work with each other without grumbling or questioning that we may be blameless and innocent and shine as a light in the world (Philippians 2:14-15)
  • How is Timothy an example for us in ministry? He genuinely was concerned for the welfare of the church and the interests of Jesus rather than His own (Philippians 2:19-22)
  • What should we not rely on to save us? We should not put any confidence in our flesh (Philippians 3:2-6)
  • What will save us and is the resulting focus of life? The righteousness from God the comes through faith in Christ saves us, so that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection, share in His sufferings and attain resurrection for ourselves.  We should be willing to suffer loss of all things for His sake  (Philippians 3:7-11)
  • What is our goal and its result? Our goal is the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:12-16)
  • Who should we model our Christian life after? Paul and others who walk according to the example of the disciples while watching out for enemies of the cross whose minds are set on earthly things (Philippians 3:17-19)
  • Where is our citizenship and what will we be like when we get there? Our citizenship is in heaven where we will receive glorious bodies like Jesus’ (Philippians 3:20-21)
  • What should our attitude in life be and what will be the result? We should always be rejoicing in the Lord and not anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let our requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-7)
  • What should we meditate on and think about? We should meditate on what is true, honorable, just, pure, love, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8-9)
  • How should we act in times of plenty and want? We should be content in any and every circumstance. (Philippians 4:10-13)
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Children’s Sermon Notes Outline

Transitioning children from their Sunday School class to the adult service and sermon is challenging.  Depending on the church size and format, this can happen anywhere between 4th grade and 8th grade.  There aren’t many resources that help children, youth or high school students make the move to the sophistication of a sermon targeted to adults.  The page below is an attempt to create a youth sermon worksheet.  It’s targeted for older middle schoolers or high schoolers, but can be simplified by removing some of the questions for a younger audience.

Children's sermon worksheetThe worksheet covers singing, praying and preaching the word of God as elements of the service.  It assumes that you’ve taught some basic concepts of interpretation such as understanding the context and identifying the genre of a book, but that could be changed as well.  The sermon is applied using the know, be, do structure for knowing God, becoming like Him and following Him.

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Good Friday Resources about the Crucifixion

Here are some resources about the crucifixion, atonement and meaning of the cross as you reflect on Good Friday:

Classic sermons

Articles

Books

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Metzger’s Causes of Error in the Transmission of the New Testament Text

We are blessed with thousands of New Testament manuscripts (over 5,000 fragments) due to the work of many scribes copying the Scriptures throughout the centuries.  This blessing also poses a challenge because many of these writers made changes to the Biblical texts.  The variances or errors introduced deviate from the autographs, and generally only cause minor changes to the meaning, but can be unwound by scholars to reveal with a high probability what the original texts said.

Consider a situation where you receive an important handwritten letter (considered the original autograph) and want many others to be able to read it.  Before the printing press, you’d have had to copy it manually (creating a first generation copy) and maybe have your friends copy it as well to speed the distribution.  As the letter was rewritten, one person may misread a word and write it down incorrectly, another might try to help out by attempting to fix what she thought was an error in the letter and another friend might forget a word because of being interrupted while writing.  Over time, other people my decide to rewrite the letter as well (creating a second generation) and introduce further errors because of misreading handwriting or due to an attempt to clarify a word so that their readers would better understand the letter based on their customs.  Transmitting the letter in this way could go on for many, many generations and introduce hundreds of variances in the letter based on who scribed it and the source document the scribe worked from.  As a result, there become many similar, yet not exact versions of the original letter with much of the meaning continuing, but containing differences in some words or sentences from one version to another.

The science (and art) of unwinding the differences and tracing them back to the original text is called textual criticism.  Textual criticism is helpful to understand variances, but is controversial  as well because many of its practitioners remove large sections of Scripture.  Bruce Metzger was one of the leading (conservative) scholars of New Testament texts and created a list of the types of error that crept into the Scripture that is helpful in understanding how and why the changes introduced over time:

  • Unintentional changes
    • Errors from faulty eye sight – confusion of similar letters (think c and o or m and n in English) resulting in different words or skipping lines that look similar in the text
    • Errors from faulty hearing – the text was sometimes read so it could be copied by multiple scribes; if two different words were pronounced the same they could be mixed up (think red and read or there and their)
    • Errors of the mind
      • Substitution of synonyms
      • Variations in the sequence in words
      • Transposition of letters within a word
      • Usage of the wording of one passage based on a similar passage (think of the synoptic Gospels that tell similar stories slightly differently)
    • Errors of judgment – explanatory notes in the margins of texts incorporated into the text itself
  • Intentional changes – this includes correcting what was thought to be an error or attempting to alter the text to make a doctrine more clear or explicit
    • Changes involving spelling or grammar
    • Harmonistic corruptions – intentionally ‘fixing’ the text to make it align with a similar passage (e.g., Lord’s prayer) or Old Testament reference (to make it better conform to the original text)
    • Addition of natural complements and similar adjuncts – examples would include adding “and Pharisees” to a passage the referenced scribes only or ‘enhancing’ Jesus by including “Lord” before His name when only only his name was mentioned in the text
    • Clearing up historical and geographic difficulties – editing what were thought to be mistakes such as how a place was described or which prophet a quotation was attributed to (Zechariah rather than Isaiah)
    • Conflation of readings – merging of two variant readings together when there were differences in manuscripts such as when one manuscript referenced “God” and another referenced “Lord” in the same passage the words were merged to read “Lord and God” rather than selecting one or the other
    • Alterations made because of doctrinal considerations – removal of problematic passages or changes to phrases to support a desired doctrine
    • Addition of miscellaneous details – examples include naming the criminals crucified with Jesus, adding to Jesus genealogy and providing apocryphal details about Jesus baptism

Source: The Text of the New Testament – Chapter 7

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Qualifications and Role of Deacon

In 1 Timothy, 3:8-13, Paul follow-up his teaching to Timothy about qualification for elders with an explanation of the qualifications for deacon.  Paul writes:

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain.  They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

The characteristics Paul lists should sound familiar because they’re very similar to those that he listed for elders:

  • Respectable = Dignified
  • Not a drunkard = not addicted to wine
  • Not a lover of money = not greedy
  • Husband of one wife = husband of one wife
  • Manage household = manage household
  • Manage children = manage children
  • Not a new convert = tested first

Characteristics of Elders and DeaconsDeacons Office Compared to Elders

The two positions have similar character qualities of managing themselves well, maintaining good relationships and maturity.  The only significant differences are the requirements to be in control over mind/body and not be violent/quarrelsome are mentioned for elders, but not for deacons.  However, someone who fell short in these areas would not be put in a deacon role, so the real differences are the elder requirements of hospitality and the ability to teach.  In essence, deacons should be held to the same character standards as elders.

Beyond these 1 Timothy verses about character qualities, nothing else in the New Testament explains the role of deacons or how they should function.  The office of deacon is referenced in Philippians 1:1 when Paul addresses the letter to both elders and deacons, but that’s the only other mention of the office.   Titus 1 helps to clarify the nature of an elder’s teaching responsibility from 1 Timothy 3, but for deacons we don’t have the luxury of finding a clearly passage to allow Scripture interpret Scripture.

How should the position be understood with such limited information?  For one thing, care should be taken to not be dogmatic about the role.   No one can go beyond what Paul is telling us here with any definitive conclusion.  Without the clarity of other texts, the next best option is to look deeper at the nature of the word used for deacon to understand what it describes in other contexts.

The root word for deacon is sprinkled throughout the New Testament.  When the word is used elsewhere, it’s frequently translated as servants and sometimes ministers.  For example, the passage from Matthew (20:26) where Jesus says “the greatest among you shall be your servant” is from the same root word as deacon.

The idea of service, in Greek as diakonous, provides the best direction about the role of deacons.   Jesus tells his disciples to be great servants and there is also verse upon verse where service is highlighted:

  • What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each (1 Corinthians 3:5)
  • For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5)
  • Through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13)

In essence, the deacon (or deaconess) is the model servant among all servants.  He or she removes the administrative weight from the elders, so that they are freed up to teach.

Based on the limited information about deacons, Paul is purely focused on the character qualities and his or her willingness to serve rather than a specific expertise in children’s ministry, financial management or another responsibility of the church.  While it would be imprudent to allow someone incompetent in any area, given the choice between an expert in finance with questionable character and someone with basic skills and good character, you should choose the later.

With the limits of the text, it is also clear what a deacon is not.  Paul does not say that the role is a precursor or step to becoming an elder.  The character requirements are very similar with the most significant difference being the ability to teach.  John Owen argues that far from being a “stepping-stone” to the eldership, diaconal responsibilities actually hinder one from being in a position to move to an elder role.  He says that deacons responsibilities, “lies wholly in the providing and disposal of earthly things, in a serving of tables of the church, and those private, of the poor; but preparation for the ministry consists in a man’s giving himself unto study, prayer, and meditation.” (Beeke, A Puritan Theology – Location 24,432)

To reiterate the difference in church offices, an elder is a model for us with specific gifts of communicating the faith while a deacon is a model of service that everyone should seek to emulate.  Everyone is called to serve, so there’s no reason everyone cannot aspire to serve as a deacon.

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Children’s Ministry Planning

Children’s ministry planning can be challenging.  There are many different areas to consider to help bring kids to know who God is, what He’s done in history and ultimately how He has revealed Himself in Jesus.  This brief document on Children’s Ministry Planning may give you a running start on how to think through the options and prepare for the year.  The PowerPoint slides include:

  • Starting point: A list of the key Bible texts about training children that guide all decision making
  • Overview: Visual representation of the four elements of children’s ministry including the key questions of what to teach, how to teach, who teaches and who it’s taught to guided by the goal of maturity in Christ
  • Goal: Explanation of what maturity in Christ looks like across knowing, being and doing with example milestones.  The know, be, do framework starts with learning (transforming the mind), which then changes our heart through the work of the Spirit and then results in action (Ephesians 2:10)
  • Children: Brief profile of children so that they are taught at the right level.  For example, kids that are in Christian homes or attend Christian schools will have a very different level of understanding than others who have no Christian influence outside of church.  As a result, different curriculum and teaching method will be employed for different sets of students
  • Curriculum: Comparison of facts about each curriculum under consideration.  This could easily be further fleshed out into a more complete assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each
  • Curriculum (continued): Components of the curriculum to consider include how it deals with systematic, Biblical and practical theology along with the spiritual disciplines and church history
  • Pedagogy: Questions to consider about how the lessons are delivered and based on the learning styles and needs of the children
  • Delivery: Questions to consider about who teaches and how to monitor that the material is delivered

One other article to review is teaching techniques to improve learning, which provides you with ideas for how to make the lessons stick better.

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Teaching Techniques to Improve Learning at Church

Educational and cognitive research provides some important insights into how to improve learning and memory.  The key theme is that learning can be enhanced through driving recall by working with taught information in new forms (summarizing, associating, testing) repeatedly over time.  Passively hearing a lesson once is not effective (even with review at the end) in promoting learning of material.  There are several ways to apply this idea to teaching the Bible to children:

  • Have the students explain what they’ve learned to someone else in the class at the end of the class or as a review from the previous class.  This form of recall helps retention of the material.  One way to structure this is to pair younger and older children.  Have the younger child explain what they learned first because they’re less likely to have mastered the material.  The older of the two can then fill in the gaps by explaining the lesson in more detail
  • To improve learning in older kids, have them take notes on key ideas, organize information to compare and contrast it and create associations with what they already know and writing practice questions (source)
  • Test the class on what they learned.  This drives recall better than reviewing the material again in the same lesson (see testing to take tests)
  • Repeating material over time (many weeks) is critical to driving recall, so summarizing key points from previous weeks rather than immediately starting on to new material will reinforce what was learned and move it into long term memory (review research on recall)
  • Increase learning engagement/attention by finding something students can relate to in the lesson; even if the connection is trivial.  For example, a history story that illustrates someone’s trust in God through a trial will be more engaging if it’s setting is from the children’s hometown rather than somewhere they’ve never heard of.  This would likely also apply to engagement with the teacher.  Find some similarity between you and each student to make a connection with them and improve their intake of the material (read more about stories we relate to)
  • Sleep, exercise, not multi-tasking and separating older boys and girls also helps improve learning, but these generally can’t be controlled in a classroom

You can find a summary of additional research here

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Church Planting Checklist

Planting a church involves piecing together many small organizational details that cover the spectrum of theology to management.  A launch team with a wide set of skills is useful to tackle the different kinds of tasks required to open your doors.  An administrative checklist can be helpful to ensure that you aren’t missing any critical items as you work through the steps required to start your church.  This list covers many of the business type items that form the foundation of getting off the ground.

  • Pray for God’s direction and blessing.  A church must be established by Him, for Him and based on the principles He’s given in Scripture.  It goes without saying that this should be continued indefinitely.  A good book to help you pray Biblically is A Call to Spiritual Reformation, which takes you through Paul’s prayers for the church
  • Select or write a statement of faith to define what you believe.  Consider seriously what are the essential elements that you’re going to bind the members to.  For example, is a position on eschatology so important that you want to define your church by it or is it a relatively minor doctrine that you’ll allow people with a spectrum of beliefs to join.  Some examples of statements of faith are from the Westminster Confession, Bethlehem Baptist and The Gospel Coalition
  • Select or write a church covenant to outline how the church will behave as a body of believers.  This document isn’t discussed much, but goes hand-in-hand with the statement of faith.  Desiring God explains why a covenant is needed.  Examples here include Capitol Hill Baptist and Bethlehem Baptist
  • Establish a constitution to frame how the church will be governed including voting rules and administration.  This is a legal document, so it should be carefully constructed including specific content to protect the church
  • Set-up a not-for-profit corporation with your state (and possibly apply for 501(c)(3) status).  Apply for a sales tax exemption. This allows you to avoid state sales tax at retailers based on your not-for-profit status
  • Open a bank account: Some banks have special accounts for not-for-profits.  Consider the minimum balance requirements, branch network, number of free transactions, bill payment offering and fees for going over the free transaction threshold.  BMO Harris has a good offering if they’re in your area
  • Purchase liability insurance: The amount you need will depend on your situation (e.g., size of the space)  and the requirements of your lessor.  You may also need to add sexual molestation insurance
  • Rent a facility: Schools are often a good place to start because they’re relatively reasonable to rent.  They will need to see your certificate of insurance.
  • Purchase a Church Copywrite License (CCLI) for music to ensure that you’re in compliance with copywrite laws
  • Put up a website.  This can be easily done through simple templates at WordPress for free, but they reserve the right to advertise on your site.  If you want to avoid advertising, you’ll need to find a hosting provider and WordPress will direct you to some options.
  • Register the website with Google and Bing.  Register your location with Google maps.
  • Create a Facebook fan page and Twitter handle
  • Consider purchasing church management software for a membership directory, children’s check-in, contribution tracking etc.  Some of the software options are FreshVine, Fellowship One (the most expensive) among others
  • Create professional e-mail messages with  something like MailChimp, which is free if you have less than 12,000 messages per month
  • Register your church with external directories such as The Gospel Coalition9 Marks or others specific to your denomination
  • Develop a budget to cover building, staff, equipment, supplies, benevolence, missions and other needs
  • Decide what to pay your pastor.  Pastoral compensation is complex because of the tax laws associated with it including the housing allowance and double FICA, so study this closely.  Compensation surveys are available from the SBC, CRC , and a large church survey for free and a paid site called Ministry Pay to help guide you on what to pay staff.  There also a guide to negotiating compensation
  • Tackle the issue of ownership of the intellectual property associated with the sermons directly, so there is no conflict about whether they’re owned by the church or the pastor
  • Develop a policies and procedures manual that covers everything from how to count contributions to guidelines for volunteering.  Create a separate one for children’s ministry which may be required for insurance purposes
  • Plan your children’s ministry objectives, what age ranges you’ll teach and what curriculum to use.  Some good options are Children Desiring God, The Gospel Project (SBC) and DiscipleLand (PCA).
  • Within a reasonable time, you’ll want to establish elders (qualifications) and deacons (qualifications) in accordance with 1 Timothy 3
  • Educate your congregation on what membership means.  What is a Healthy Church Member is a great, brief book to use for this purpose

This list isn’t exhaustive, but will hopefully give you a jump start to work through some of the key administrative items when starting a church.  More importantly than fulfilling a checklist is to ensure that the whole council of God is preached in season and out of season, so that disciples are made who love God and their neighbors and observe all that God has commended.

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Activity to Teach Children the Bible’s Storyline

A fun activity that you can do with your children to teach them the storyline of the Old and New Testaments is to work with them to draw out the most significant events on paper or whiteboard.  Have the children think through the major milestones and then order them correctly.  Where appropriate, point out how the events before Jesus looked forward to His coming.  Here’s a New Testament example based on the collaboration of three children:

New Testament events illustrated

The events in this example include the birth of John and Jesus, Jesus’ time in Egypt, His childhood in Nazareth and visit to the temple at 12, His baptism and ministry along with the crucifixion, empty tomb and ascension.  The bottom briefly touches on Pentecost, Stephen’s stoning, Paul’s conversion and the planting of the church in Acts.

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The Great Ejection

Today marks the 351st anniversary of the Great Ejection.  If you’re not familiar with this event of church history, it was one of the most important days in the English speaking church because over 2,500 pastors forsook their livelihood in order to follow God rather than the requirements of the official church in England.  The ejection was caused by the Act of Uniformity, which required conformance to The Common Book of Prayer.  This act was one of four associated with the Clarendon Code implemented to keep pastors from their congregations.  The pastors who were forced to leave their church included:

  • Richard Baxter
  • John Flavel
  • Thomas Brooks
  • Thomas Watson
  • Thomas Manton

The event is worth pausing to reflect upon and to consider what situation would be significant enough for you to quit your job to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

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