Sunday, September 30, 2012

1 Timothy 5:20-21

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 5:20-21

Paul tells Timothy that he should rebuke sinful behavior.  He even tells Timothy to do it so that others might be take the Christian path seriously in their own life.  Then Paul tells Timothy that he needs to be careful when acting in this kind of authority.  Timothy needs to act without partiality and without prejudging.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul’s words are clear.  Rebuke sinful behavior.  Now, this doesn’t mean we need to do it maliciously.  We don’t need to be mean and offensive.  However, we do need to make sure that we assert a godly agenda to life.  We need to make sure that we let others know of expectations – God’s expectations.  We need to be confident and rise up to defend the idea that God’s ways are better than our own ways.

Why is it important to stay strong about resisting sinful behavior in a community?  What are some strategies that you can use to remain strong?  Why should we be careful to not be mean or malicious when rebuking sin?

Second Thought:
Paul tells Timothy to be sure to rebuke sin “in order that the rest should have fear.”  Literally, this is what the Greek says.  However, we need to remember that Biblically speaking fear doesn’t only mean “afraid.”  In the Bible, fear means a mix of fear and awe.  We do need to teach people to have a genuinely healthy respect for God.  We also need to make sure people understand just how serious God takes our response to Him.  We don’t want people to be afraid of God; neither do we want people to think that because of grace what we do doesn’t matter.

Is it easy to make people afraid of God?  Is it easy to give the idea that because of grace we can do whatever we want?  Who in your life has been able to walk this balance?  How can you learn from those people who have come before you who have been able to genuinely instill awe of God’s ways without driving you straight into fear of God?

Third Thought:
Paul points out to Timothy that being impartial is very important.  It is important to stay strong.  It is also important to do so with consistency.  It is important to not go into a situation with your mind already made up.  It is important to not play favorites.  People need to know that they can trust their leaders so that when issues do come up they believe that the issue being dealt with is being done in their own best interest.  If we want to lead – and be respected in that leadership – we absolutely must be fair and consistent in our leadership.

What happens when leaders are not fair?  What happens when leaders are not open to hearing all sides and motivations behind actions?  What happens to people when they don’t believe that they can trust their leadership?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 5:22-25

Saturday, September 29, 2012

1 Timothy 5:17-19

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 5:17-19

Paul says that we should treat the elders who lead with a special level of honor – especial the elders who are active about teaching and proclaiming the Word of God.  Paul reminds Timothy that those people who are actively working for the mission of the church do deserve to receive help – either in the form of reaping from their work or in the form of wages.  Paul tells Timothy to be careful about allowing people in the congregation to talk about those in the church whose track record has proven themselves to be faithful.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
This section has much to do with how we treat our spiritual elders.  It is difficult to live a life of devotion to God.  We know that the world does not respect such a life.  Within the church, we need to make sure to take extra care and respect those who are making a point to be obedient to God.  We need to be quick to respect those who are vocal about teaching God to others as well.  After all, without them, how would God’s Word ever get preached to us?

Why is it so difficult to live a long faithful life to God?  Why is this something that we should respect and honor within our communities?  How can this passage help inspire you to become one of those respected elders at some point in your life?

Second Thought:
Paul speaks to the fact that those who are devoted to the ministry of the church deserve their wages.  There are two sides to this argument.  First, it does give a precedent for paid ministry positions.  Those who are genuinely working deserve to reap from that work.  However, it does also imply that only those who are genuinely working should be paid.  We don’t need to create a system that pays just anybody.  Those who are paid should genuinely be working.

What are the dangers of paying someone to work in ministry?  What are the dangers of not having someone paid in ministry?

Third Thought:
Paul is also quick to tell Timothy to be careful about how he lets people talk about leaders in his presence.  Yes, everyone is capable of sin.  Yes, everyone has a right to their own opinion.  However, we shouldn’t allow just anything to be said about our leaders in our presence.  When our leaders have issues – and they can be susceptible – it should be validated by multiple sources.

Why do you think leaders are prone to being attacked?  Why do people sometimes believe they have the right to attack leaders?  What can a congregation or the other church leaders do to protect a congregation’s leadership?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 5:20-21

Friday, September 28, 2012

1 Timothy 5:14-16

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 5:14-16

Paul says that he would advise younger widows to marry, participate in their families, and live up to the promises to which they can live up.  He is concerned that some have already begun to fall away because they did not follow this advice.  If anyone has a family member who is genuinely a widow, then they should care for them.  This way the church can focus on people who truly have nobody else to care for them.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Notice Paul’s continued thought on people promising what their hearts can actually do.  Paul would rather a young widow confess that she would like to be with another man than to make some bold proclamation of faith that she can’t follow through on.  Please understand that Paul isn’t telling people to take the easy road.  Paul is simply asking us to be realistic about that which we can and cannot commit.  Paul is saying that it is better for us to be faithful in the things that are possible than to set up grand promises and fail.  For when we fail on our promises, we open ourselves up to attack from others as well as guilt from within.

Have you ever thought about the dangers of making promises that are simply out of your reach?  Have you ever made promises that you simply were unable to attain?  How did your failure affect the relationships with the people affected by your inability to keep the promise?  Although Paul is certainly talking about widows in this passage, do you think that his generalized point is applicable to anyone?

Second Thought:
Paul speaks about people who have fallen away from the faith and who have even begun to pursue the way of Satan.  Satan is a word that means adversary, so Paul is talking about people who are following the ways that are adversarial to God.  Here’s why Paul is so concerned about this dynamic in the midst of faithfulness.  Let’s say that I promise to pray every day.  I do really well for a few weeks.  Then I start to slip.  Suddenly I pray every other day.  I compensate for a while by praying twice as long after having a day where I don’t pray at all.  But soon I’m not praying very often.  Maybe I even stop praying altogether.  Suddenly I am bound by guilt.  I think myself incapable of being faithful.  I doubt myself.  Suddenly I am susceptible to Satan’s whisper when he says, “You can’t be faithful, why even try?”  Pretty soon I find myself believing that if I can’t do it, then I might as well have fun in this life since I can’t be faithful anyway.  It is a very slippery slope – and it begins with us making promises to do things that we simply are unprepared to do.  This is why Paul is so concerned that within our faith we take time to honestly evaluate what we can and cannot achieve – and then be honest about it.

Have you ever had this pattern of guilt happen within you?  Have you ever promised to be extremely faithful only to experience backsliding?  If you were to honestly evaluate your faith life, what are you genuinely capable of doing?  If you were to look at the PoWeR SuRGe model, what level are you able to commit and succeed?  Why do you think it is better to be successful at a lower level than it is to make grand declarations of faith that may or may not come true?

Third Thought:
Paul talks about families taking care of one another so that the church can genuinely take care of those who have nobody.  Think about this for a second.  What this implies is that the church is there for others.  In fact, what it really implies deep down into its core is that the church is there for the people of this world who have nobody else.  Isn’t that a really cool thought?  In the church there is an answer for people who have nobody else to turn.

As neat as that thought is, how many of our churches don’t ever get to that level?  We spend so much time focusing on ourselves that sometimes we never get to the people that need us.  So often we approach our faith and our places of spirituality with the attitude of “what can it do for me” instead of “what can it help me do for others.”

Why do you think so often our places of worship revolve around what we can get out of it instead of what it can help us do for others?  What does this teach us about human beings – even human beings who are genuinely in a relationship with Christ?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 5:17-19

Thursday, September 27, 2012

1 Timothy 5:11-13

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 5:11-13

Paul then says to refuse to enroll younger widows in the program because they have a tendency to want to marry again.  This tends to lead to them to focusing less on God.  Plus, without maturity of life people who are given free support tend to take advantage of it and spend their time doing idle things, going from house to house doing nothing productive, gossiping, and telling people things that they shouldn’t.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
 Paul isn’t trying to be discriminatory against young widows here.  There is a certain amount of maturity necessary to give up the agenda of this world and completely embrace God’s agenda.  Many people make promises that they simply just cannot keep.  It takes a certain amount of wisdom in life to know when to make promises that you can keep and when to not make promises to which you absolutely know you cannot live up.

Do you think it is good to ask people to genuinely consider how mature they are?  What happens when a person is genuinely in touch with their own level of maturity?  Is it better to say “no” to someone that asks you to do something that you probably won’t do or is it better to say “yes” in order to seem agreeable and likeable and then not follow through?

Second Thought:
One of the main reasons that Paul tells Timothy to not enroll young widows is because they may get remarried.  First of all, notice that this is not a slam against people getting remarried at all.  In fact, since Paul says that it is likely one can say that it is clearly an acceptable practice for a widow to get remarried.  Paul says that it is likely and never once says that it is a bad practice.  So don’t read this passage as anything against remarriage.  However, what Paul is saying is that when a person gets married, their devotion is inherently split.  A single person can devote themselves solely to God.  A married person is by definition devoted to God and their spouse.  (Hopefully those devotions run along the same path most of the time, though.)  Remember that in the prior sections Paul has talked about how a widow who has been “accepted in support” should be devoted to God and devoted to embracing the community.  Thus, an accepted widow who gets remarried is going to inherently have to step back somewhat from her devotion to supporting the community because she will have to spend some of her devotion to her new husband.  This is what Paul means when he says that they are “abandoning” an earlier faith.  It doesn’t mean they are giving up on God completely.  It means that they will have to step away from ministries that an unmarried widow would be able to fulfill.  Their spiritual closeness with God and their community may grow weaker through remarriage.

Does this passage trouble you at all?  How much time do you spend thinking about the things in your life – some of which may actually be good! – that inherently take your focus away from God?  Why is it important to consider how our commitments to one another might impact our ability to make commitments to God and His work?

Third Thought:
 Again we hear Paul talking about his fear for the Ephesian church.  He fears that widows – especially young widows – will take advantage of the hospitality of others. Instead of genuinely serving the church, Paul fears that the young widows will receive the care given to them and use their eased burden to become gossips, busybodies, and people who spend their time talking about worldly things rather than focusing on spiritual matters.

Do you think this is a fair comment?  Do you think younger people are more likely to be distracted by worldly passions that older people?  Why might this be true?  How can wrestling with this question help older people understand the troubles of being young?  How can wrestling with this question help younger people understand the value of the wisdom of older people?  What does Paul seem to be saying in this passage about the value of wisdom and life experience?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 5:14-16

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

1 Timothy 5:9-10

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 5:9-10

Paul then sets out some guidelines for being a genuine widow.  A widow deserving of help in the church is a woman who while in Christ was a “one-man-woman.”  She is a person who has a reputation for using her time for godly pursuits: raising children well (if applicable), showing hospitality, being of good service to the holy ones, and caring for the afflicted in the world among other things. 

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Again we hear Paul setting up more guidelines.  From what we’ve learned in the past few studies, we can tell that these guidelines are being set up because there is abuse in the church.  People are taking advantage of the hospitality of others.  People are not being genuinely grateful when help is given to them.  This is a sad truth in the world.  Laws are created as a response to abuse.  Laws are created because human beings like to find loop-holes so that they can focus on their own self-centered passions.  When people respond properly and according to God’s will, we don’t need to have structure and regulate the outpouring of God’s Spirit.  It is when people abandon God’s ways and focus on their own desires and their own needs that we have to have laws.

Do you see this dynamic in the society around you?  What traffic laws exist simply to keep people from solely thinking about themselves?  What rules in schools exist for no other purpose than to keep one person from taking advantage?  What laws from our government are created simply to try and limit the number of people who can take advantage of the programs that are there to help people in the first place?

Second Thought:
Before talking about the traits of a proper widow, I would like to illustrate again that by definition Paul speaks about “excluding.”  The point of this section of text is that Paul is telling Timothy that there are some in Ephesus who need to be told that they are being “cut off.”  {Not necessarily cut of from the faith, just cut off from being able to abuse other people’s hospitality.}  Paul is giving permission to Timothy to tell people when they’ve gone too far.  That takes courage, guts, and strength.  It also means being willing to have people get mad at you because nobody likes being told that they’ve done something wrong.

Why is it important to understand that we should have the authority to tell people when they have take advantage of us and are no longer acting in God’s ways?  In what way should we be humbled because we have that authority?  What role does community play in exercising such authority?

Third Thought:
Now we get to the guidelines.  Paul says that a widow deserving of receiving help is a woman who sexually lived life according to God’s desires.  This is a woman who has only ever had one man.  Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean “not married more than once.”  It means “not partnered with more than one man at the same time.”  In ancient cultures having multiple partners was fairly common, and it is a practice frowned upon by God because of its inherent damage to the nuclear family support network and the relationships contained within.  A widow is also someone who is using her time for godly things.  This doesn’t mean that she is perfect – after all, who is?  But what it does mean is that it is a woman who is engaged in the life of the congregation.  This is a woman who is concerned for her fellow Christians.  She might be upholding them in prayer.  She might be visiting with them and spending time demonstrating concern for them.  Essentially, Paul is telling us that a proper widow who receives help from the church is a woman who responds to that generosity with sincere appreciation.  In many respects, Paul is indicating that a person receiving help from the church should respond in good faith in the same way that we allow should respond to God as He gives us salvation.

Why is the response important?  Is it the response that saves us?  If not, then why is our response to God, love, compassion, or mercy so important? 

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 5:11-13

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

1 Timothy 5:7-8

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 5:7-8

Paul reminds Timothy to command these things that we’ve been talking about in addition to believing them himself.  This is so that the people who follow these teachings will be beyond reproach.  Then Paul tells us that anyone who has denied care for his or her family is guilty of denying their faith.  In God’s eyes, they are worse than an unbeliever.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Again we hear Paul remind Timothy to command.  Paul knows human nature.  There are a few people who will do things because they genuinely are able to work themselves into submitting to the Holy Spirit and believing that God’s ways are correct.  However, most people don’t believe God’s ways are correct until they have experienced them first hand.  For those people, you need to command.  They need to do before they can reflect on why God’s ways make sense.  It is really unfortunate that we have this way from time to time, but every human being has this trait to one degree or another.

What are the areas where it is hard for you to act in faith and thus you need to be “commanded?”  Why is it good for you to recognize these areas of your life?  How does recognizing these areas about your own life help you in your relationships with others?

Second Thought:
Paul also knows that there are people who deny help to their families.  I feel it necessary to add here that Paul is making an assumption – these families in Ephesus who are being denied are deserving of help.  Of course there are people who simply abuse our help and we should not enable them – see yesterday’s lesson.  However, Paul knows that there are widows in Ephesus whose families are ignoring them and refusing to help.  This is our old friend the self-monger at work again.  People care more about oneself than others; it is actually quite easy to forget about helping those people that we should help.

I’ve asked this before, but it bears repeating: who are the ones in your life to whom you can offer support?  What support can you offer?

Third Thought:
Paul makes a harsh claim.  Paul says that those who do not offer support to their families are worse than an unbeliever.  While this is harsh, it is true.  A person who does not believe in God will absolutely indulge their self-monger side.  They simply don’t know any better.  On the other hand, a follower of God should know better.  Thus, when they fail to show compassion it is a blatant refusal to be obedient to God.

Can you buy into Paul’s logic?  Is it worse to err by “refusal to obey” than it is to err because “it’s my nature?”  Are both still wrong?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 5:9-10

Monday, September 24, 2012

1 Timothy 5:3-6

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 5:3-6

Paul tells Timothy to honor widows who are truly widows.  However, if a widow still has family left, the family should care for the widow as that is pleasing to God.  Paul reminds Timothy that a true widow will put all of her hope in God and be content with what God provides rather than taking advantage of other people’s help.   

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul tells Timothy to honor widows who are truly widows.  That is, if a widow genuinely has nobody else to rely upon, we should care for them.  This doesn’t mean that we give them whatever they want, but it does mean that we help ensure that they can continue to live.  Widows are alone, they need companionship.  In that culture, a widow might not have the means to purchase food or have access to clean water; so we should care for them and make sure that they have access to such things.  Paul is clearly concerned about a compassionate response to the people in genuine need in Ephesus.

Who in your life is in need of something that you can offer?  What can you offer to someone who is alone or in need of basic things in life?  How willing are you to be proactive about offering such things out of your life?

Second Thought:
In spite of his compassion, Paul also knows that there is abuse happening among the families of the church in Ephesus.  People aren’t caring for their widowed parents or grandparents.  The church (or society in general) needs to be careful about how much we step in and help people who genuinely should be receiving help from family.  When we step in, we do two things.  The first thing we do is deprive the family of an opportunity to help.  When the church (or society/government) steps in, human beings tend to pull back and let the church (or society/government) handle it.  The second thing that we do is even worse.  When churches (or society/government) take over ministry that families should provide, we are encouraging the family to develop habits that put them at odds with God.  God desires families to help one another.  When families learn to depend on institutions for help, we do not act in ways that are pleasing to God and according to God’s way.

How difficult is it to know when we should step in to help and when stepping in really means enabling a bad circumstance to continue?  How difficult is it to refuse help in order to help a bad circumstance begin to operate under a more godly agenda?  Have you ever been an enabler?  How does it feel to realize that what you thought was helping was actually allowing a bad process to continue?

Third Thought:
Paul also knows that there are widows who are taking advantage of other people’s generosity in the church in Ephesus.  This is likely part of the reason that in earlier chapters Paul is clear on having a carefully planned structure of authority in the church of Ephesus.  There are some widows who are taking help from other people and living in self-indulgent lives.  They are not seeing the help in terms of God sustaining them.  Rather, they are seeing the help in terms of being able to live a life of luxury where they neither work nor appreciate the generosity of others.

Have you ever heard the word entitlement?  What happens to a person when they feel entitled to a particular thing?  Have you ever been the victim of someone feeling they were entitled to something you provided?  Have you ever been the person who felt entitled to something that someone else was doing for you?  What impact does entitlement have upon community and the relationships within?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 5:7-8

Sunday, September 23, 2012

1 Timothy 5:1-2

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 5:1-2

Paul tells Timothy to not rebuke an older man.  Rather, Paul tells Timothy to encourage an older man like one would encourage a father.  Paul says to treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters.  Then Paul says to do all of this in purity.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul is careful to talk about how Timothy relates to the people around him.  This is really an important topic.  Relationships drive the church.  In fact, we could say that it is the concept of relationships that brought Jesus to this earth.  Jesus came because of the break in the relationship between God (Creator) and humanity (creation).  Everything we say and do impacts the relationships around us.

How often do you think about the relationships that you have and how your words and actions influence those relationships? 

Second Thought:
Paul talks about encouraging rather than rebuking.  There is a saying in English that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  It is really true.  Sure – it is possible that we occasionally need to rebuke people.  That is why Jesus gives us instructions in Matthew 18:15-20.  But when dealing with people, we should want to start with a friendly approach.  We should want to encourage people to make good decisions rather than abuse them into avoiding bad decisions.

Why does encouragement tend to work better in churches?  How does encouraging interact with our relationships?  How are relationships affected by rebuke? 

Third Thought:
Paul tells Timothy to do all of this in purity.  In prior posts I’ve talked about purity in terms of catharsis.  This is not the case here as it is a different word in the Greek.  This word here literally means “without defect.”  Timothy is being encouraged to act in a manner that doesn’t have ulterior motives.  Timothy should want to encourage the people around them because he genuinely cares about them.

Have you ever experienced a person who encouraged you with ulterior motives?  Have you ever worked over another person with your own ulterior motives?  How do each of those experiences feel?  How does it feel to encourage someone genuinely?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 5:3-6

Saturday, September 22, 2012

1 Timothy 4:14-16

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 4:14-16

Paul warns Timothy to not neglect the gift that God has given to him – a gift that was confirmed when he was commissioned by the laying on of hands.  Paul tells Timothy to practice – even immerse himself – in the spiritual routines so that God’s work in him might be obvious to all.  Timothy is to keep a close watch on his faith and persist in his faith so that he and all who hear him might be saved.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul’s warning to not neglect his gift should be listened to sternly.  Think about it.  Baseball players practice every day just to maintain their level – not to mention make slight improvements.  Piano players have to practice every day in order to maintain their competence on the keyboard.  Public speakers (preachers, even!) need to practice their talent just to maintain their ability.  Why should we think spirituality is any different?  If we want to be spiritual people capable of thinking spiritually in any situation, we need to be in the habit of being spiritual!  It takes time, devotion, and hard work.

How good are you at maintaining your daily walk with God?  How good are you at acknowledging your gifts and using them publically?  Is there any way that you can include other people into your spiritual life so that they can help support you like Paul is doing to Timothy here?

Second Thought:
Paul makes a point here that growth is important.  Spiritual growth within a person is incredible for people to witness.  Mentors love to see spiritual growth in their mentees simply because it is clearly identifiable fruit from God’s hand.  Mentees love to see growth in their mentors because growth for the mentor usually implies something new for the mentee to learn.  Fellow Christians love to see growth in one another because it is encouraging that God is at work in our midst.  Growth is a wonderful thing in spiritual community – far too wonderful to keep it all bottled up!

When was the last time you were really excited about some spiritual growth of your own?  When was the last time you were excited about some spiritual growth that someone around you achieved?  How do you respond to growth – your own as well as that of others?

Third Thought:
Paul talks about Timothy’s need to maintain his spiritual for the sake of his own salvation and the salvation of others around him.  Don’t get confused.  This is not works righteousness.  Paul is warning Timothy about how easy it is to backslide.  Paul is warning Timothy about how easy it is to watch others around you backslide.  This isn’t about works righteousness as much as it is a caution to stay faithful.  God gives us salvation freely.  It is ours to embrace or reject.  Paul wants Timothy to take seriously his efforts to embrace salvation.  Paul encourages Timothy to take seriously his influence on how seriously the people around him embrace their salvation, too.

How often do you consider your gratitude for God’s salvation?  How often do you express that gratitude to others?  How often are you actively encouraging other people to remain strong in the Lord?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 5:1-2

Friday, September 21, 2012

1 Timothy 4:11-13

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 4:11-13

Paul tells Timothy to literally “command” and “teach.”  Paul encourages Timothy to let nobody despise him because he is young.  Rather, Timothy is to set an example in speech, conduct, faith, love and purity.  Paul encourages Timothy to devote himself to reading God’s Word in public, to encouraging others in the faith, and to speaking about our faith so that others can learn from what God has taught us.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Command and teach.  These are really two sides of the same coin.  Leaders must command.  Leaders must say, “This is what needs to be done.”  This is the command part.  The reason that commanding is different than teaching is because commanding assumes that the audience cannot not yet see the big picture.  A general commands his troops, sometimes even into situations that don’t make sense on the small scale but make much sense on the larger scale.  Especially in the beginning, new Christians need someone to command them – that it, to tell them what has to happen and to tell them to trust them.  On the other hand, teaching is for those who do see the large scale.  Teaching is for someone who knows enough and sees enough to be able to make the right decision with the information on hand.  Teaching is far superior to commanding because it allows people to make their own decisions; but sometimes commanding is necessary until maturity is present.

Why do you think teaching is superior to commanding?  Can you think of a time in your spiritual life where you obeyed simply because someone told you to obey and things worked out well?  Why is it important to realize that while the goal may always be to understand, sometimes we have to be humble and allow ourselves to be commanded?

Second Thought:
Paul makes sure Timothy knows how to get people to look past his youth.  The more Timothy acts in a way that models excellent speaking, good behavior, faithfulness to God, love to one another, and motivations that are pure and not self-interested the easier time people will have overlooking his age.  This is not so much a passage to older people telling them that they should respect Timothy.  This is a passage to younger people telling them that if they want to be respected, they have to act a certain way in order to gain that respect.  Young people who act out of their immaturity and short-sighted perspective should be treated with caution.  Young people that can transcend their immaturity and see with eyes that understand the greater picture can be trusted and treated as one with wisdom that exceeds their years.

Do you think Paul is wise in giving this advice to Timothy?  Do you think the world tends to treat young people with caution?  Is this fair?  Is it more often right or wrong?  How easy is it to always think and act with wisdom beyond our years?

Third Thought:
Paul then encourages Timothy into a public faith.  Paul tells Timothy to continue to focus on God’s Word publically (read, preach, bring it up in conversations, etc).  Paul tells Timothy to be sure to encourage people in their faith – that’s what exhortation means.  Paul tells Timothy to always teach about the faith.  This is the example of Jesus.  Jesus never missed an opportunity to bring faith into a conversation.  Jesus used anything and everything as an example of how to think about faith and our relationship with God.  Jesus lived a very public faith life.  

Why do you think it is important to remember to live a public faith life?  Are there parts of your faith life about which you aren’t quite comfortable talking?  How much do you consider yourself as someone who has something to teach?  How good are you at perceiving upon opportunities to talk about your faith and then acting on those opportunities?  How good are you at exhorting others in their faith life?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 4:14-16

Thursday, September 20, 2012

1 Timothy 4:6-10

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 4:6-10

Paul tells Timothy to be sure to teach these doctrines to the whole church so that he can fulfill his duty as being a good servant in Jesus Christ.  Paul reminds Timothy that these are words in which he was trained and which he personally has followed.  Paul cautions Timothy to have nothing to do with teachings in the church that do not promote God and simply make us feel good.  Rather, we are to embark upon the path to godliness since godliness is useful here in this life as well as in the life to come.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul encourages Timothy to teach doctrine to the church.  He tells him to be sure to warn God’s people about false doctrines and false agendas in life.  Warren Wiersbe has a great analogy that I love to use with respect to spiritual leadership.  Warren says that as we drive down any road we see two kinds of signs.  We see signs that tell us where we are with respect to where we are headed (10 miles to Atlanta, Welcome to South Carolina, etc).  We also see signs that warn us about imminent dangers ahead (steep grade, reduce speed, tight corner, merge left, etc).  Just as we need to know where we are and what pitfalls lay ahead as we are driving down the road, we need to know those things as we live our life, too.  This is the job of spiritual leadership.  It is difficult to warn people that they have chosen a poor path in life, but in the end it is necessary for that warning sign to be put up in their life!

Do you like to tell people that they might be doing something wrong in their life?  Do you know anyone in your life right now that is making choices which are going to steer them away from God?  How can you go about helping them understand the pitfalls of their choices without driving them away from God?  What connection is their between this point and the need to have a spiritual relationship with people?

Second Thought:
Paul tells Timothy to be careful about getting involved in activities or beliefs that don’t actually have anything to do with Jesus Christ.  People have all kinds of mental “crutches” in which we believe but they simply just aren’t true.  How many times at a funeral have you heard someone say, “He was such a good man” or even “God must’ve wanted another angel?”  How many times have you heard someone say, “God helps those who help themselves?”  How many times do we think that if we can just make people feel good then they’ll come to church?  Paul encourages Timothy to let these kinds of thinking go.  God’s truth is what people need in their life.  We need to focus on living out God’s truth and applying that truth to every decision that we make.  It is God who makes a difference in people’s lives; we should do anything and everything to focus on incorporating God as often as possible.

Why do you think we develop mental and theological crutches in which we believe?  Why is it so hard to focus on what God’s Word actually says?  How is this topic related to our God’s Word being an authority in our life? 

Third Thought:
Paul tells Timothy the secret to godliness: It’s useful everywhere.  Godliness helps us in this life.  Godliness helps us in the life to come.  Godliness is a topic of life study that will never disappoint.  Honestly, when have you ever once heard a devoted person of faith say something like, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time drawing close to God!”  You never hear that because drawing closer to God is always fruitful and productive.  However, so often we end up pursuing the things and ways of this world – which are only useful in this life and not in the life to come.

With respect to eternal life, why could you consider humanity short-sighted?  Why do you think so many people have a “focus on the moment” mentality?  Why do so many people seem to struggle with having a perspective of living for the eternal?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 4:11-13

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

1 Timothy 4:1-5

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 4:1-5

Paul now turns to warnings for Timothy.  He says that eventually some people will turn away from the Gospel of Christ and instead listen to speeches that are intended to cause some to go astray.  Paul talks of the people who teach these things as hypocrites (insincere), false-speakers (liars), and people who are unwilling to listen (consciences being seared).  Some of the false doctrines that they teach are a ban on marriage and abstinence from particular food.  Paul then reminds Timothy that everything God has created is good and when used in conjunction with God’s Word and prayer all things of God can be used in a righteous manner.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul tells of people who will turn away.  This is really a sad place to begin today’s reflection.  People will get sucked into agendas that are not of God.  I think we should pay attention to this more than we already do.  God wants His people to focus on being vocal about bringing His love and grace to the world.  However, in today’s day and age of secular pluralism it is so easy to do ministry without ever mentioning God.  We want to help people, we want to be nice, we want to show God’s love; but we don’t want to be rejected.  So we often end up having wonderful service opportunities where nobody ever realizes that God should be at the center.  We start chasing the work and the feeling of doing good rather than chasing God’s desire that we proclaim Him and His love to the world.  When we do this, we are on the path of going astray.

Do you have anything in your life that may seem good, but it is not really God’s agenda?  How can we pay attention to our life and make sure that when we are doing God’s work we are actually proclaiming Him to the world and doing things in His name and for His glory?  What are some of the reasons that we start to chase other agendas and stop proclaiming God?  Are those reasons always bad?

Second Thought:
In this particular case, the false message that Paul is concerned about among the Ephesians deals with food laws and marriage.  The food laws issue is pretty straight forward.  Jews have the kosher laws; so those Jews who converted to Christianity are still thinking that they should follow the Mosaic Law.  The marriage issue is a little more complex.  There was a group of people in the early church who genuinely thought Jesus was coming back to earth in months or years, not millennia.  Thus, they were teaching that we should not get married, have children, or do anything like that because it would cause us to take time away from what little time we have to actually preach and proclaim God.  It’s the old argument that the more influences I have in my life, the less time I can spend with each particular influence.

Notice that both of these issues are fundamentally rooted in good thought.  One is rooted in a desire to be obedient to God’s Word as given to the Jews.  The other one is rooted in a desire to be as obedient possible to Christ’s command.  However, the result of these policies is a limitation on who can really serve and who is acceptable in the church.  After all, if I eat everything and worship in a church that says I can’t, then I won’t be allowed to serve.  Or, if I am married and worship in a church that says I can’t get married in order to lead, then I won’t be allowed to lead.  Thus, what often happens in human society is our legalism takes over and God’s ability to work through us is compromised because we make laws against that which God Himself does not say is sinful.

Why do we need some aspects of legalism?  Why did God give us His Law?  What is the use for the Law?  How do we know when legalism has gone too far?  How can we be legalistic enough to use the Law appropriately but remain free enough so that our legalism doesn’t jeopardize God’s ability to work through us?

Third Thought:
Paul reminds Timothy that everything that God has created is good.  This is the same message Jesus teaches to Peter when Peter is on the rooftop in Caesarea (See Acts 10).  However, Paul is also careful to remind Peter that everything can be used for good when we remember to pray about it and surround it with God’s Word.  What this implies is that we should not take for granted that everything is actually being used for good.  The creation can be used for good or for evil.  Therefore, how we approach the creation will determine whether we are using it for good or for evil.

Why is prayer such an important part of the discernment process?  Why is God’s Word an important part of discernment?  How do each of these things help ensure that we are doing things according to God and for His glory?  Are there any other spiritual marks of discipleship that can also help us ensure that we are using the creation to do things for God and to His glory?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 4:6-10

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

1 Timothy 3:14-16

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 3:14-16

Paul explains to Timothy that he hopes to be able to come to him soon.  However, if that is not possible Paul still wants Timothy to know how to lead Christians.  Paul then reminds Timothy that the body of believers (the church) is a living buttress of truth.  Then Paul gives some inspirational words.  Remember that Christ was alive in the flesh.  The Holy Spirit demonstrated Christ’s righteousness.  Angels have seen Him.  Nations have been told about Him.  People from all over the world have believed in Him.  He was taken into the glory of the presence of God.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
We are the church.  The building is not the church.  The hymnal and its liturgical practices are not the church.  The space where we keep all of our religious artifacts is not the church.  The church is God’s people who are “purposed” for the proclamation of His Gospel in the world.  We are the buttress of truth.  We are the church.  When Christ loves the church, He loves us.  He doesn’t love our spaces; He loves us.

Why is this an important thought?  What does it mean to you to know that Jesus loves you specifically?  What does it mean to you that you are a part of Christ’s living buttress of truth?

Second Thought:
Paul wants to come and see Timothy.  However, this is not always possible.  Sometimes the things we want to do are not where God really needs us to be.  Sometimes like Paul we have to trust that God can equip others.  So Paul wants to do his part to make sure that regardless of whether or not he can come that Timothy can lead and God’s will can be done.

How hard is it to trust that others can get the job done?  What can make it easier to put that trust in others? 

Third Thought:
Look at the inspirational thoughts that Paul gives to Timothy. 
  • Jesus lived. 
  • The Holy Spirit has come to witness to His righteousness.  That means that we have the Holy Spirit!  God is in us! 
  • His Gospel is being taken throughout the world. 
  • People are believing in Jesus. 
  • Jesus was taken into glory into the presence of God.  This means that those who are in Jesus can also have the hope that we shall be taken into the glory of the presence of God as well.

Do you feel the Holy Spirit within you?  If so, how do you know?  How does having the Holy Spirit within you change who you are?  Does it inspire you to know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed throughout the world?  Why is this inspiring?  What does it mean to you to know that a day will come when you will dwell with Christ in the presence of God and His glory?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 4:1-5

Monday, September 17, 2012

1 Timothy 3:11-13

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 3:11-13

As Paul continues to talk about deacons, he speaks of the deacon’s spouse.  Paul says that the spouse of a deacon should dignified, in control of their tongue, able to think meaningfully, and faithful.  Again we have the comment about deacons being a “one woman man.”  (See blog post for 1 Timothy 3:1-3)  Deacons should be able to manage the affairs of their own house just as the overseers should.  Paul reminds Timothy that those who serve well gain a good public image for themselves as well as being trusted in the faith.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul spends time here talking about the spouse of a deacon.  {Yes, Paul talks specifically about a wife, but remember our earlier conversations about men and women in ministry and how Paul is careful to limit the structure of the Ephesian church because of their ability to quarrel.}  The spouse of a deacon must have many of the qualities of the deacon – especially with respect to the public witness.  The reason for this is because God’s work is hard.  When we go about God’s work, we need to support one another.  If someone who is serving has a spouse who is completely on board and able to be supportive in the role of serving, then the person’s ability to serve will be greatly enhanced.

What support network do you have?  If you are married, how much of your support network is your spouse?  If you are not married and plan to be, how much emphasis should you put on finding a spouse who will be able to support your work in and through Christ?  If you aren’t married and don’t plan on marrying, what support network will you need to create and where is this support network likely to come?

Second Thought:
Paul makes another comment about the deacons needing to be a one woman man in addition to being able to manage their house.  Again, Paul is emphasizing how our life affects our testimony.  The things we do will affect how people see our work.  The choices we make will determine our ability to honor our commitments and our promises.  We need to be careful and thoughtful about the choices we make in how they impact our ability to be a tool in God’s hand.

Do you think the modern church has high enough standards?  Do most churches that you are experienced with expect people to live up to any standards?  Why is it important to remember that standards are not necessarily for salvation (since none of us earn salvation) but rather they are for enabling us to have an effective testimony about God?

Third Thought:
Paul tells Timothy that people who serve well will gain a good public image.  People will respect a good servant’s projection of faith into the community.  One of the key ideas here is the concept of trust.  When we serve well and show our compassion for others, people will trust us and our testimony.

Why is trust connected with experience?  Why is it important for us to remember that trust is earned and given, not demanded or expected or taken?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 3:14-16

Sunday, September 16, 2012

1 Timothy 3:8-10

Summary retelling of 1 Timothy 3:8-10

Paul then turns to talk about deacons.  He says that they must behave appropriately and not hypocritically.  They must not be devoted to wine.  They must not pursue the acquisition of wealth in a dishonest manner.  They must hold to the faith with a cathartic conscience.  Paul says they should be examined before they serve and then allowed to serve if they are proven to be above accusation.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Let’s talk first about the word “deacon.”  In many churches, the word deacon has come to mean “leader.”  The board of deacons is often the governing board of the church.  That’s not at all what Paul is talking about here.  When Paul uses the word deacon, he is talking about a job description.  The job description of deacon literally is “one who cares for the needs of others.”  This is a job description involving some authority.  But primarily this is a job description of service.  The deacon is a position of a skilled servant; not governance.

Why do you think Paul would put out a list of qualifications for those who serve?  Does it surprise you to know that those in the church who were entrusted with the care of others is given a title?  Do you think that only those with the title deacon are able to serve and care for the church?

Second Thought:
If we look at this list of qualifications, many of them have to do with behavior.  People who are serving in the name of Christ should not behave inappropriately, hypocritically, or in any way that their work can be questioned.  They should not behave in a way that their motivation is questionable (alcohol as well as money).  This is why they should be examined before being given the blessing of a title of service.  Our behavior will influence how people perceive our witness.

What do you think is your own worst quality with respect to your behavior – that is, what part of who you are is most likely to jeopardize your testimony?  What quality is the most likely to speak positively about your testimony?

Third Thought:
One specific qualification that I saved for last is the qualification about approaching the faith with a cathartic heart.  A catharsis is a moment of healing, clarity, or emotional breakthrough.  Paul knows that we all have sin in our life.  None of us is perfect.  Thus, we all have something to work on.  We all can give great testimony about how God is working through us to overcome our weaknesses if we are willing to work with God through catharsis.

How do you think you are with respect to being able to work towards catharsis with respect to your faults?  How good are you at being able to talk about what God is doing through you with respect to your weaknesses?  Why is being able to talk about what God is doing important to our testimony as servants?

Passage for Tomorrow: 1 Timothy 3:11-13