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.  

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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, 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.

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 29 October 2018

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.  A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.  1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NIV).

Before we move on, let’s address a few other things about these verses (even though they’re uncomfortable).

Paul was a first-century Jew discussing first century traditions.   While he was writing what God had inspired in his heart, he was also discussing what was contemporary.   Today, there are still many churches where the roles of men and women are strictly defined.   In some churches, women cannot be ordained as ministers; in others this doesn’t matter.   Are they wrong?   We can’t apply these ancient dictums today without considering the world in which they were written.

Some online research tells how Paul, in both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians, may have been addressing local customs in the Corinthian church as well as churches where Timothy was familiar.  In the letters to the Corinthians, Paul was addressing factions that had arisen in the church there, factions that included women.   Some people think that Paul’s seemingly chauvinist remarks are a reaction to that and a way to re-institute order and discipline.  In truth, we’re speculating.

And yet, in the early church, men and women were equals in most ways.  Women served as deaconesses, with Paul’s blessing even.   The people who went to tend to Jesus on Easter Sunday were women; the first people to whom He revealed His resurrected Self were women.  In Paul’s other letters, he sends greetings to both men and women without indicating any female subservience.   Indeed, trumping even Paul’s seemingly chauvinistic verses is Galatians 3:28 which says, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  That equality is the bottom line.

I was confirmed by a woman.   Indeed, I learned more from Pastor Ann than I have from most other men.   A local church with which I’m familiar has a woman as its congregational president.  In most churches, women wholly manage Christian education.  In all these cases, submission to Christ is the only concern.   Male or female, leaders must first submit to Jesus in all ways for in Him we are one.  Any other concerns are secondary.   We should do the same.

For further reading: 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, 1 Corinthians 11:3-9, Ephesians 5:22-30, Galatians 3:28, 1 Timothy 3:1

Lord, in all we do, may we submit to You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 25 October 2018

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.  A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.  1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NIV).

These verses are hard to understand, hard to accept, in the PC world we inhabit today.  Yesterday I mentioned that my mom, a modern woman before most other women were modern, always bristled at Paul’s exhortations on the roles of men and women in worship.  Nobody except Jesus, not even Jesus’ Apostle Paul, would tell her to be quiet or submissive.  Yet here’s a point she missed:   in worship.  Paul was talking about worship, about worshipping God in all ways.

It’s undeniable that Eve gave Adam the fruit of sin after she had first eaten it.   And it’s undeniable that God held Adam (and all men after him) spiritually accountable for the things that happened in their families.   This is still the case today.   Whether we like it or not, men and women do have distinct roles in God’s eyes.   Where Paul talks about “saved through childbearing,” he’s indirectly pointing to the Gospel because God’s response to the excruciating pain of childbirth was to remind women that he would redeem that inner pain through the Savior.   And He did.   This site, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-are-women-saved-through-childbearing, does a great job of explaining this nuance.

We are to honor God in all we do.  Paul believed everything we do should be an act of worship.   Modesty, humility, propriety, decency:   these are words of good advice for all situations, not just in the formal church and not just for women.  God will hold men responsible for the spiritual acts of the people in their families, yet God redeemed them through Jesus.   God holds women responsible through spiritual acts of the people they bear through childbirth and the pains associated with it, yet God redeemed them through Jesus.  The common theme is “redeemed through Jesus.”   It’s not about sexes.

Don’t get too wrapped around the gender roles without considering the larger context in which those Biblical roles should still apply in our ‘modern’ world.   They do apply, and in many ways.  Paul wrote what God put on his heart to teach us how we should worship God in the bigger picture, including our roles as men and women.   We shouldn’t be quick to dismiss them.

For further reading: 1 Peter 3:3, Ephesians 5:22, Genesis 2:7, 1 Corinthians 11:8, 1 Timothy 2:11

Lord, help me to better understand these hard to understand roles you established for the sexes.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 24 October 2018

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 1 Timothy 2:8-10 (NIV).

My mom died four years ago today.  She was born in 1929 and lived to age 85.   My Mom was feminist long before Gloria Steinem learned how to burn her bra, and Mom was a feminist in ways that Gloria still doesn’t understand.  My Mom insisted on being taken at face value, appreciated for her knowledge and talents, and treated as an equal because God had given her the knowledge and drive to do just that.   She didn’t need little Gloria to tell her what she already knew better.

The most important things I learned from my Mom intersected things taught from the Bible.   Worship.  Have faith.  Do your best, strive to excel, and don’t do things that are dishonorable.   Love; just love.  That’s how she lived her life because that’s what her parents, family and friends in Depression-era Princeton, Minnesota taught her.   Mom tried to teach my sister and I that same lesson with varying degrees of success; my sis is far more decent & proper than I am.  The good lesson both my sister and I learned from Mom (actually both of our parents) was putting that best foot forward.   It was a way to honor God.

Read ahead a few verses and you’ll find a section of scripture where the Apostle Paul talks about the decorum of women in worship.   These verses say what they say and aren’t politically correct.   We’ll talk more about them tomorrow, yet between now and then, when you read them, consider that Paul is talking about BOTH men and women being decorous and submissive through worship.  Yes, the verses talk specifically about women, but just as Paul alluded to mankind praying in verse 8, here he’s teaching both sexes to revere God before revering our sexes.   Don’t get wrapped around the gender.   Look for the universal lesson and be better.

Grace Terry understood that.   She bristled at Paul’s verses that talked about the roles of men and women in the church but she understood the larger implications.   Mom was a professional at a time when women who were strong-minded professionals were challenged by establishment men.   God gave her a sharp mind and sharper wits to earn her way in that world and she succeeded, winning respect and honor.  She was a Proverbs 31 woman of noble character.  It’s been four years since she went to heaven and I miss her.   But I’m thankful to be her son.

For further reading: Psalm 24:4, Luke 24:50, 1 Peter 3:3, Proverbs 31:10-13, 1 Timothy 2:11

Lord Jesus, thanks for my Mom.   Say hi to her for me.

 

 

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 22 October 2018

And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. 1 Timothy 2:7 (NIV).

Do you have a resume?   Do you keep yours up to date?   In the last few years, I’ve been out of work 3 times.   And I learned things have changed since 2001:  the last time I earnestly sought a new job.  Monster and Dice are still around, but now most tech employers use Indeed and LinkedIn.   I found that looking for a job was less about who I was as a person and more about the raw skills I possess.

As a tech worker, I’ve learned to keep my resume up to date.   Most times I use a 2-page format, and no more than 2-3 bullets per employer.   Some head hunters say to only go back a decade, but I keep all my skills on it, going back to 1986; some of my most important work was back then.   And my resume shows only what I consider most important, only the things that talk about what I can do AND who I am.

Today’s verse is Paul’s resume.   It testifies to his bona fides.   After talking about Christ being the one and only mediator, and after spending the first part of this letter talking about Christ’s grace, Paul goes to the subject of his qualifications to teach the ‘un-churched.’  In several of his letters, Paul discusses his calling as an apostle, that it came from Jesus Himself.   That mattered to the first-century church because that group was being pulled in many directions.   The original 11 apostles had known and walked with Jesus.   He established their resumes.  Now came this man Paul, who had been a famous Pharisee known for persecuting these new followers of “The Way” (as the church was then called).

What’s more, this Paul wasn’t teaching only the Jews, as most of the Apostles and Jewish rabbis did.   No, Paul was speaking about this Jesus to non-Jews:  to non-Jewish people all over the Roman empire.  Everywhere he went, Paul testified that Jesus was the authority to whom Paul gave all credit and from whom Paul had received his calling.

Paul kept up his resume.   You can read it in the twelve books he wrote in the New Testament.  You and I have similar credentials.  God gives us skills to work and talents to advertise, both for His advancement and ours.   He places us in situations to do or prepare us for work He has in mind.  The next time you update your resume, consider your skills and how God would use them – and you – at an employer.  I wonder what that would look like on LinkedIn.

For further reading: Romans 9:1, 2 Timothy 1:11, Acts 9:15, 1 Timothy 2:8

Lord, thank You for establishing Paul’s resume.   And for giving me the skills you want me to have for You in the world today.