Practical Proverbial, 1 Timothy, 14 November 2018

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.  1 Timothy 4:3-5 (NIV).

Before moving on from these verses, let’s talk about consecration.   Key in on that last verse: “because it is consecrated by the Word of God and prayer.”   Do you get that God just exploded a bomb in your life?  Jesus Christ, who loves you enough to die for you, just threw a grenade and you and watched it explode in your face, blowing you to bits…and He was smiling.

Huh?

Every now and then, the Bible drops these precious nuggets about salvation right into our laps using common language, words we often overlook.  I say that because did you know that you consecrate your actions through the word of God and prayer?   BOOM!   There goes another explosion.

Huh (again)?

Get this:  to consecrate something is make something sacred, to set it apart.  You and I get invite consecration into our lives by praying.  Through Jesus’ power, our ordinary lives are dedicated to His higher service.  Sure, some people have a purposeful calling to be pastors and teachers of Christ; maybe that’s how you’ve been consecrated.   Yet even the more pedestrian of us can be (and are) consecrated as hallowed, holy, righteous by God when we invite (as Carrie might sing) Jesus to take the wheel.

All that happens through prayer.   Prayer:   that conversation between God and you.   Usually it feels one-sided but, if you look closely, it may just be that He’s doing most of the work.   Have you ever felt more at peace after praying?   Perhaps God immediately answered your prayer by giving you that peace.   We will never know how God may act on our prayers if we don’t pray them.

And when we do pray, we are inviting the full power of King Jesus God Almighty into our situation.  Hebrews 4:12 says that the word of God is a living thing, a sharp sword that cuts to the core of what we believe.   It slices away things we don’t need and leaves what we do, namely Jesus Christ. Prayer consecrates us, sets us aside for something hallowed, invokes His power.   When it does that, it cuts away what isn’t important or, like alcohol on a wound, begins to scour and heal.  It isn’t our words that do that:   it’s the Word of God.

Next time you pray, remember that you’re holding a consecrating weapon in your words.   Boom! It might be the most powerful thing you do all day.

For further reading: Hebrews 4:12, 1 Timothy 4:6

Lord Jesus, I pray thanks and praise that You consecrate us.   Help me to use this powerful blessing for Your good purposes.

 

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Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 13 November 2018

They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.  1 Timothy 4:3-5 (NIV).

“Received with thanksgiving:” those are powerful words.   They can make all the difference in the world.

Next week is Thanksgiving and that means we’re coming up on the time of the year when we’ll reflect on 2018 and talk about what we’ve done (and unconsciously avoid those not done).  May I submit to you that an attitude of thanksgiving for all things, ESPECIALLY the bad things, makes everything ok?   No, I’m not Pollyanna.  This year, just in my own family circle, we’ve known death, terrible illness, separation, extreme financial difficulties, loneliness, encounters with Satan, and more.   Let’s just assume you’re in a similar situation (because you probably are).

Give thanks.   Thank God for them.  Thank God for the bad things and the good things, too.

Winter is coming and I just detest cold weather.   But I’m thankful for it.   Yesterday was a REALLY EARLY morning, seeing me wake up at 3 to leave the house by 4 to catch a 6:30 flight at Love Field.   I’m thankful for that because it means I have a good job.   Every payday there always seems to be more in bills than there is in paycheck…you guessed it:   I’m thankful because the life my wife and I lead is one of family and friends and faith and love.

God gives us EVERYTHING on this planet and more.   He did it (and does it) out of love, out of wanting to provide for His children who He created to be “very good.”  Who am I (or you) to put conditions on it?   Who are we to put rules and regulations all over something that God gave to us freely?

In the book of Acts, the Apostle Peter learns in a dream that every food is “clean” and a gift from God.   All through his life, Peter had observed Jewish laws about what to and not to eat.   It makes sense that the early church, an offshoot of Judaism, would start to adopt some of the Jewish traditions.   But God switched things up, telling Peter that all foods were clean.   In an even larger sense, God was telling Peter that all PEOPLE were clean, all people were worthy of His blessing and should hear the Gospel of Christ.   Give thanks for EVERYTHING, good and not good, clean and unclean.  It’s all from God.  Even the bad things He allows are used for His good purposes.

How could someone not be thankful for that?

Thanking Jesus as the start to all we are is the start of making things better.

For further reading: Acts 10, 1 Timothy 4:6

Lord, thank You.   Just thank You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 12 November 2018

Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron1 Timothy 4:2 (NIV).

Does your conscience bother you?  Sweet Home Alabama; love me some Skynyrd.

Paul called out hypocrites in the church who didn’t fully put their faith in Jesus.  He called out people who said they believed but acted differently.   Or people who said they believed but also practiced other things (like pagan beliefs, or holding onto the traditions of the Jews).  He was calling out people who tried to infuse “the Way” with practices and ideas that weren’t given by Jesus.   And, worst of all, Paul was calling out people who were following false teachings, teachings of “work righteousness (earning your salvation)” and the apostasy of saying there was no resurrection.

Paul was calling out people in Timothy’s flock who were following dangerous ways.   Do you think he could have been talking with us?

I mean, new age religions teach that we are our own gods, that we aren’t sinful (and if we aren’t sinful then we don’t need a savior).  We get wrapped up in things of this world so that we act as if we don’t need Jesus, don’t have time for Him, don’t want His old-fashioned ways.   How awful it is when things go south and we find out we need a Savior after all.

Are you bothered by things now?   Are you into things that you shouldn’t be, things that are sketchy or even outright dangerous?   Could Lynyrd Skynyrd be singing:  does your conscience bother you?  Jesus gave each of us a conscience so that we would know Him better.   He gave us a barometer of right and wrong so that we might learn to rely on Him more and live out our lives through Him.   Usually we’re steady, but we sometimes get into situations that are a risk to our spiritual, maybe even physical, health.   To whom do you listen when the going gets rough?

The good news in all of this is the Good News.   There’s nothing you’ve done that could ever separate you from the love of Jesus.   You can always listen to your heart and come back home.  If your conscience bothers you about something, that may just be His Spirit prodding you; “let’s have a talk.   What’s on your mind?”   We have a learned but innate sense of right and wrong; only the most inured or depraved of us fully give ourselves over to all sensuality and lose ourselves in the process.  Such folks have dull consciences.   Yet even they aren’t beyond the power or reach of Jesus.   He’s much bigger and stronger than anything that may plague us.  He came to save ALL people, even those of us who have done terrible things.   Sweet home Alabama ain’t got nothing on Jesus.

For further reading: Romans 8:37-39, Ephesians 4:19, 1 Timothy 4:3

Lord, I’ve said and done terrible things.   Forgive me when I let them bother me.  

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 8 November 2018

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demon1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV).

We are a divided world; the division goes far beyond just the United States.   Muslims against everyone else.   Rich against poor (or at least ‘not rich’).  Protestants against Catholics.  Conservatives against progressives.   You get the picture.   We line up against each other over imaginary lines of offense.  Perhaps every generation thinks it has seen things ‘worse than they have ever been.’   I and others of my middle-aged generation seem to be saying that now.

Many of us line up and, in doing so, put our faith in things that aren’t Jesus (or aren’t of Jesus).  It isn’t just new age religions (many of which are actually rooted in ancient pagan religions), and it isn’t just embracing sensuality, materialism, atheism, or even apathy.  Many people just ignore the voice of Jesus’ Spirit talking to them.   He speaks through our conscience, through our knowledge of right and wrong, through nature, through others, through the Bible.   God has a myriad of ways that His Spirit can talk to us and convince us that He is talking.   Yet many people turn off that voice, chill it and drown it out.   Some people don’t even realize it’s Jesus’ Spirit talking to them or moving them in a direction.   Many don’t even think to ask.

How can we tell if something is of Jesus or from Jesus or about Jesus?   You know the answer.   Compare it against what is said in the Bible, especially in the New Testament.   And if you doubt that Jesus is who He said He is, then the first place to stop is your own heart.  Open it and pray.   Talk with God about exactly what you’re feeling, what you think, what you do or don’t believe.   He can take it and you’re worthy.

Start by asking God.   If you don’t feel or sense an answer from Him, go to the Bible.   Find a concordance or go to Biblegateway.com.   Any search engine can give you instant answers to most any question about Scripture you have.   Finally, if your head is wondering, remember those links I shared yesterday:  the first is about how Jesus fulfilled 300+ prophecies about the Messiah (http://www.accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html) and the second talks about the logical odds that Jesus is who He said He is based on those prophecies  (http://www.goodnewsdispatch.org/math.html).  His words are always true, even when we don’t know.

We may or may not be witnessing the ‘later times,’ but we are witnessing people abandoning faith for whatever scratches their itches.   In the face of that, test what you believe against what Jesus said and did.   If those things line up, it may just be Him talking with you.

For further reading:  John 16:13, Acts 8:29, 1 Corinthians 2:10, 2 Peter 3:3, Mark 13:5, Timothy 4:2

Lord Jesus, I open my heart and ask Your Spirit to talk to me.   I’m listening.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 7 November 2018

Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:  He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.  1 Timothy 3:16 (NIV).

In Jesus’ day, people no different than us believed in Him.  People who were ridiculed, threatened, persecuted, confused believed in Jesus.   Sometimes we read these stories from the Bible and we seem to think that they were unusual people, ‘super-human’ people.   Jesus was.   All the rest of them?   Not so much.  The people who lived and heard and believed Jesus in His time were people just like us.  They looked, they listened, they let go, and they believed.   Why is it so tough for us?

You and I have the same information available to us that was available to popes all through history, to Billy Graham and Mother Theresa, to all the billions who have believed in Jesus since He returned to heaven.  Something about Him opened a window into our hearts and we believed.   Not because we’re special or even have special insight but because He is who He said He was.

And it’s beyond all reasonable doubt.   The words of the Bible are plain and they’re available for anyone who wants to read them.   As Paul says, Jesus is proven to be the Son of God beyond all question, not because Paul said so but because Jesus did so.   The mystery of the trinity and of Immanuel incarnate isn’t much of a mystery at all.  It was plainly proven over thousands of years.  Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled only in Jesus Christ; if you don’t believe me, consult this site, then read the verses for yourself:  http://www.accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html.  Nobody else is possible; mathematically, it is 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 and there isn’t even a named number for that (see http://www.goodnewsdispatch.org/math.html).

When you put your faith in Jesus, you’re putting your faith in the only truly known or possible Savior in all of human history.   He’s fully God and fully man at the same time.  With only a thought He could compel you or I to follow Him.   But He doesn’t do that.

Instead, the Christ, proven beyond all reason and doubt, calls to us in love and asks us to follow Him.   He doesn’t demand it, command it, or force it.   Instead, Jesus introduces Himself and says “Be loved and forgiven, then share it.”   We don’t have to do that:  we get to do that.   Because of Him.  The people of His day weren’t any different than us.   They simply saw and believed.

For further reading:  Romans 16:25, John 1:14, Psalm 9:11, Colossians 1:23, Mark 16:19, Timothy 4:1

Lord, thank You for proving Yourself.   I believe in You.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 6 November 2018

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV).

One of the verses that helps to amplify Paul’s meaning today is listed below (referenced from my Concordia).   1 Corinthians 10:32 says “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God.”   This is Paul’s goal in meting out advice to his protégé.   “Whatever you do, Timothy, keep these things in mind so that the members of our church of God don’t cause others to struggle in their faith.”

Simply brilliant.   Whatever we do as ‘the church’ should be upright, consistent, caring, and loving so that God is increased and we are decreased.   We should do these things, as followers of Jesus, to encourage, build, and strengthen the faith of others, especially the faith of those who are weak in it or new to it.

That’s been on my heart a lot lately, even more so during the last days of this political season.   I’m guilty of arguing online about my political views, and I have to confess that I don’t think I’ve changed anyone’s mind for the better.   There’s great value in standing up for what you believe, both to take that stand and to encourage friends with similar beliefs.  Yet in doing that, I confess I’m guilty of saying things that don’t glorify God and sometimes cause other people to stumble (both in their spiritual beliefs and their political ones).

On this election day, I therefore take great comfort in Paul’s advice, his urging to Timothy (and to you and I) to conduct ourselves in ways that show even strangers that we believe in Jesus.  The church of the living God acts out of love, even when it, too, takes hard and political incorrect stands.  The church of the living God conducts itself in ways that show what we believe about the love of Jesus.   We don’t give up our temporal political beliefs because we follow Jesus:  we learn ways to do them better.

I haven’t done that very well; have you?   I bet I know your answer.

And if that’s true, then Paul is advising us, too, to remember how we should conduct ourselves, especially today.   Our political choices, for now, conclude in the ballot box.   Our lives as Jesus’ church go on regardless of politics, pop culture, or what the pundits and celebrities think.  We’re the church of God walking around in a world hostile to Him.   Let’s remember to act like it.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 10:32, Matthew 16:16, Timothy 3:15

Lord, forgive me for failing You in my words and actions.   Encourage me to do better, to be a more faithful follower in Your church.   Help me to help others.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 5 November 2018

In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.  In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.  A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.  1 Timothy 3:8-13 (NIV).

Here we go again.   It’s more of Paul’s ancient, woman-hating, busy-body commands on how we are to be judgy and overbearing and set up a bunch of rules to follow.   I mean, it’s almost like he’s that “television preacher with bad hair and dimples” (as Jimmy Buffett would say) telling us that we are DAMNED, DAMNED I TELL YOU if we don’t toe the line just the way he says.

Whatever.

Keep a few things in mind.   One, Paul is giving direction and advice to a student minister who is dealing with a contentious congregation.   Many scholars think that, in Paul’s pastoral letters (like 1 Timothy) he was writing to Timothy about how to manage difficult people.   That Timothy was in a situation where the congregation with whom he was working was, in fact, fractured and struggling.   Paul advises order and how to restore it.

Another thing to remember is that Paul has a point.   Deacons – church leaders a step below elders – should indeed be upright citizens within the church.   They should be the kind of people we mentor and shape into elder roles.   They should be the kind of people we want to work with to get things done.   Yes, that goes for the women in the deacon role as well.   We want church members to be the kind of people who are upstanding in the community in any capacity.   Their good behavior reflects well on the faith.

Finally, it’s good advice in and out of church.   Paul is giving good advice on how to organize our faith lives in ways that impact how we organize our entire lives.  When I staff a project, I look for elder kind of people as leaders and deacon kind of people as individual contributors.   I want women and men working with me who are upright and reliable, because you can count on upright and reliable people in a fight.   There will be problems; there will be issues.   People of good standing are the kind of people you can usually count on to help work a problem instead of running from it.

For further reading:  Timothy 3:14

Lord, help me to better become someone in good standing in Your eyes and in the eyes of my brothers & sisters.   Help me to live and act in upright ways.