Bible Study Moment

“I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7 RSV).

If you were to ask me what my favorite Bible verse is, this would be it. And these Bible Study Moments are my attempt to use one of my “gifts”. Through the years when events have been held to help people identify their gifts or talents knowledge has consistently been at or near the top for me.

The next few weeks I’ll share some other scripture passages that are important to me. (I know, that’s what I’ve been doing all along.)

For this verse I think it is especially meaningful that Paul tells Timothy to use his gifts with love, of course; but also power and self-control, two things that need to be kept in balance. It is easy to use power but with no self-control, and too much self-control will lead to the spirit of timidity that Paul says God does not give us.


Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment – Women Apostles

“Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.” (Romans 16:7 CEB)

The campus ministry that Linda and I were a part of in college had a retreat at Tall Oaks in the mid ‘70’s with the guest speaker being a biblical scholar within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) tradition. He spoke briefly about this verse, pointing out that at least one of the names is feminine; therefore it is reasonable to conclude that there were women leaders in the early church.

During this time and for a few years before, there was the Women’s Liberation Movement and some churches were beginning to include women in leadership positions. It is important to me to be able to see biblical evidence to support such a move, and the change not being just a response to the wider culture. So hearing what he said about this verse was very important to me.


Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment: Phoebe

“I’m introducing our sister Phoebe to you, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae.  Welcome her in the Lord in a way that is worthy of God’s people, and give her whatever she needs from you, because she herself has been a sponsor of many people, myself included.” (Romans 16:1-2 CEB)

I’ve heard that the Greek word translated servant here is the source of the English word deacon, and that it appears in the King James Version as deacon or minister except here, which may be why Phoebe is described as a servant in many translations. Other versions translate the word as either Deacon (Deaconess), Minister, or Helper. All these words are accurate, but they each say something different to the reader.

It appears that Phoebe is the one who is bringing this letter of Paul’s to the church in Rome. According to the custom of the time, she would be the one reading the letter to those assembled, answering any questions that may be asked. So it is reasonable to conclude that Phoebe is the first commentator of Paul’s letter to the Romans, something that we would associate with a person highly trained in theology, like a minister.

Mark Phillips


Bible Study Moment: Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene is mentioned as one of the women who helped to support Jesus’ ministry. In that passage it is mentioned that 7 demons had been cast out of her. The only other occasion that she is mentioned by name is at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday, although there have been additions to her story both inside and outside of the Church.

While in Matthew, Mark, and Luke Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name, so is at least one other woman. It is only in John’s gospel that Mary Magdalene is the only one mentioned as going to the tomb, and interacts with the risen Christ after first running to tell Peter and another disciple that the tomb is empty. This second trip to the area of the tomb (John 20:11-17) is the inspiration for the hymn “In the Garden”.


Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

“While Jesus and his disciples were traveling, Jesus entered a village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his message. By contrast, Martha was preoccupied with getting everything ready for their meal. So Martha came to him and said, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to prepare the table all by myself? Tell her to help me.’

The Lord answered, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:38-42, CEB)


Thinking about this passage I was prepared to talk about how Jesus is encouraging Mary, and by extension all of us, to not limit ourselves by cultural standards; in Mary’s case, by the idea of “women’s work”. Reading the passage I see that Martha is the one to welcome Jesus as a guest, and perhaps Mary is a guest of Martha’s as well. Could he be telling Martha not to volunteer her sister for jobs, and not to be upset with her if she doesn’t choose to do what Martha thinks she should be doing?


Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” Luke 8:1-3 (NIV)

As this passage clearly states there were women who financially supported Jesus and those travelling with him in his ministry. In other translations, including the King James Version the meaning is less clear. Part of verse 3 in the King James says “many others, which ministered unto him of their substance”. This is unclear who exactly is providing, and the use of ministered is accurate but doesn’t readily bring to mind the idea of financial support.

Looking at this from another way, I suspect most people don’t think they are ministering when they give money to a church.

Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

First, a couple of interesting facts about the book of Esther: the longest verse in the Bible (at least the King James Version) is Esther 8:9, and in the Jewish and Protestant version God is not mentioned at all. The Catholic version is longer and does mention God.

The book tells the story of how Esther becomes a queen to the King of Persia, and in that position saves the Jews, which is also the origin of the Jewish holiday Purim.

The story involves Haman, an official in the King’s court, who takes what he sees as an offense from Mordecai, a close relative of Esther’s who raised her, into a plan to kill all the Jews in the empire. Haman apparently doesn’t know that Mordecai and Esther are related.

Historically, the closest time-frame scholars can find to be even close to the events in the book is in the 5th century BCE (or BC). But the similarities are not strong so many scholars see the book as a novella explaining Purim.

A slightly altered part of Esther 4:14 has become a favorite saying for some, part of what Mordecai tells Esther to encourage her to risk her own life to save the Jews:

Who knows? Maybe it was for a moment like this that you have been put into this position.


Mark Phillips

Bible Study Moment

Hannah’s story is in 1 Samuel 1&2; the story in chapter 1, her prayer or song reacting to it in chapter 2:1-10.
Hannah is married but has been unable to conceive. When the family comes to worship and offer sacrifices she prays for a son, promising him to the Lord for his entire life. She prays so fervently in her heart that her lips are moving but no sound comes out so that Eli, the priest, thinks that she is drunk.

The Lord answers her prayer and she gives birth to Samuel, and once he is weaned she brings him to Eli to raise Samuel in service to the Lord. (Eli may not be the best choice to raise a child; his sons are described as corrupt, but that’s a different story. You can read it in the rest of chapter 2.)

There are those who hear echoes of Hannah’s song in Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55. You might read them both and see if you agree.

Christian author Philip Yancey writes in his 2021 memoir, Where the Light Fell that he has hated this story for many years. A person could say that through his writing, including books like, What’s So Amazing About Grace? and, The Jesus I Never Knew that Yancey has been a prophetic voice to American Evangelical Christians, and therefore a type of Samuel. But since his path didn’t follow what his mother had envisioned, he received from her a judgement that not only had he betrayed her, but also God. Which is an example showing the truth of Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (NIV).

Mark Phillips


Bible Study Moment

The book of Ruth tells the story involving three women; Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth.

Naomi with her husband and two sons goes from Bethlehem to Moabite territory because of famine. Her husband dies and the two sons marry Moabite women; Orpah and Ruth. Then the sons die. Naomi hears that the famine has ended in the Bethlehem area and decides to go back. She tells her daughters-in-law to go back to their mother’s households so that they can remarry. Orpah does so. (Many of you may have already heard Oprah Winfrey say she is named after Orpah, but the ‘r’ and ‘p’ got reversed.)

Ruth insists on going with Naomi with the words that have become fairly popular in weddings from Ruth 1:16 “whither thou goest, I will go; . . .  thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (King James Version).

The book shows us an example of gleaning, where the poor follow the harvesters to pick the remaining grain. In the Law of Moses land owners are told not to harvest all of the grain but to allow for the poor to be able to share in the harvest. Ruth is the gleaner in this case. She happens to glean in a field owned by Boaz, a close relative of Naomi’s deceased husband.

As I’ve shared before about Tamar and the Sadducees question to Jesus about the woman who married 7 brothers in succession, there was a provision for when a man has died without children to inherit his land; which is that the brother of the dead man is to take the widow as a wife and father a child for his dead brother. In this case Boaz is second in line to “redeem” Naomi (and Ruth). The man who is first in line is willing to buy the property until he learns that he’ll have to provide for both Naomi and Ruth, and marry Ruth, so he declines which allows Boaz to marry Ruth.

And now we get to why this book may have been included in the Bible; Ruth the Moabite is a great-grandmother to King David.


Mark Phillips


Bible Study Moment

Deborah is unique among the judges in the book of Judges. Not only is she the only woman but she is also the only one doing something that sounds like a judge. Judges 4:5 says that the Israelites would come to her to settle disputes.

The judges in the book are not so much judges as deliverers, usually by winning some military battle. And during Deborah’s time there is a foe to be defeated in battle; Sisera, the military commander for the Canaanite king.

Deborah tells Barak, the Israelite military leader, to assemble 10,000 men to do battle with Sisera’s forces. Barak will only do it if Deborah goes with him. She says she will definitely go but the honor of defeating Sisera will be a woman’s. If you think she means herself that is understandable but incorrect. The woman who defeats Sisera is Jael, and the story of how she does it is first told in Judges 4:17-22, and then is sung about in Judges 5 as part of the song that Deborah and Barak sing after the victory.


Mark Phillips