Monday, August 26, 2013

1 Timothy 3: Managing A Household

Managing A Household

1 Timothy 3:4-5

What has gone before...

Paul warned Timothy to guard against relying upon leaders who were "lovers of silver", people who sought "sordid gain". The Greek word for "sordid" includes the idea of shame. Shame is the emotion a person feels when they are disfigured or disgraced in the eyes of other people. Yet the leaders of the church in Ephesus felt no shame for their greedy, contradictory teaching and control.

God, through the ministry of Paul and Timothy, was demonstrating His knowledge of the shameful, sordid leadership in Ephesus, and He was providing a way of rescue for the church.

Moving on...

1 Timothy 3:4-5 (ESV) "He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?"

Managing a household well, supporting a family, loving a wife and children, requires the same attitudes and abilities as in overseeing a church:

Husband of one wife

  • Sober-minded
  • Self-controlled
  • Respectable
  • Hospitable
  • Able to teach
  • Gentle

Each of the four negative behaviors that can destroy a leader's ministry can also destroy a father's household:

Not a drunkard

  • Not violent
  • Not quarrelsome
  • Not a lover of money

Managing a household can be a good test of a leader's heart and habits.

"Venerable" means to be given respect because of age, wisdom or character, from Latin venerari (to adore or revere).

Paul applied "dignity" or "venerable" specically to the leader of a household, the father of children. Earlier Paul used the same word to encourage all Christians, regardless of whether they were parents, married or single:

1 Timothy 2:1-2 (ESV) "I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way."

Paul implies that a parent will be managing their household well if they keep their children "submissive". Perhaps the best example of "dignified subordination" can be seen in Paul's exhortation to the church in Corinth. Paul had written to the church, asking them to set aside money to be given as a gift to the Christians in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16). The exhortation to be generous was based upon the issue of submission:

2 Corinthians 9:11-14 (ESV) "You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you."

Paul did not ask the Corinthian Christians to submit to himself. He reminded them of their confession (acknowledgement, assent or agreement) of the Gospel of Christ. To the Good News of Jesus, His death and resurrection on our behalf, were the people to submit with generosity.

photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc, adapted by the author using GIMP

Monday, August 19, 2013

Caulkers: Fastening Onto God

Caulkers: Fastening Onto God

1 Samuel 30:6

I am easily discouraged, easily frustrated and easily disheartened.

David also felt overwhelmed by discouragement, distressed by circumstances of loss and weakness, or confused about what to do and where to go. He often felt pain from circumstances that were allowed and orchestrated by God.

Recently I read of an instance in which David responded to a horrendous experience of loss and violence by "strengthening", or fastening, himself in God:

"David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God."

1 Samuel 30:6 (ESV)

David's small army had been on the front lines of war, away from their homes for three days. During that time, Amalekites had raided their hometown of Ziklag, burning it with fire and taking captive the women and all who were in it. David and his men returned home to find it empty and destroyed.

"When David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep."

1 Samuel 30:3-4 (ESV)

David's soldiers burned with anger against their commander, and David's heart froze in fear and loneliness:

"David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters."

1 Samuel 30:6 (ESV)

David sought comfort and courage from only one Source:

"David strengthened himself in the Lord his God."

1 Samuel 30:6 (ESV)

"Strengthened" means to fasten upon, to seize. The Hebrew word is often translated as "strong", either in body or heart, or as in building or repairing things. In one instance this word is translated as "caulker", a person who drives tarred cotton into the seams between the planks of a wooden ship or boat (see Ezekiel 27:9). This word, "caulker", gives us a vivid illustration of how David may have "strengthened" himself in God.

In the chapters of the Old Testament that led up to to the violent assault on David's home and family, we can see descriptions of many different circumstances which David experienced, some good experiences, but also many bad experiences.

Yet all that happened to David was completely under God's sovereign knowledge and control.

"Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other."

Deuteronomy 4:39 (ESV)

Because God is Creator, with unlimited power and knowledge, He has ultimate authority over who dies and who lives, who suffers harm and who is rescued:

"See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand."

Deuteronomy 32:39 (ESV)

All of David's experiences, good and bad, had led to that very moment of distress and discouragement. All of the circumstances in which God had placed David were very much like wooden planks which a builder uses to make a boat. Each plank is hewn, cut, chiseled or trimmed according to the shipbuilder's plan, just as David's life was built upon all of the different experiences and circumstances (good and bad) given him by God.

A caulker is a person who "fastens" each plank together to form a water-tight covering for the boat. The gaps between the planks are stuffed tightly with cloth or fiber, sometimes smeared with tar or resin. Without adequate caulking, water pressure would force leaks through hundreds of tiny gaps between the planks. The boat would sink immediately after launching into the sea.

David must have been acting as a spiritual "caulker" when he strengthened himself in God. He must have consciously reminded himself of past experiences, both good and bad, "fastening" together each experience with the knowledge that God knew about each one. David must have recalled God's words of promise given years before, driving the truth of God into the events that had shaped his life to that point, both the good and bad parts of his life.

We can do the same.

We must do the same.

We must take each circumstance and "smear" it with the truth and hammer it tightly into every gap of faith: God knows. God cares. God is utterly powerful.

And God is utterly good.

"Good" doesn't always mean "pleasant". In truth, "ultimately good" often requires "temporarily bad" experiences. However, "ultimate good", by definition, means "ultimately best". God cares too much, He loves us too much, too allow us simply to be "happy", especially when that temporary "happiness" would ultimately be harmful or destructive.

David "strengthened himself in the LORD his God", which means "to fasten upon" God.

To strengthen yourself in God means to cover every experience with what we know to be the truth about God.

Thank God for "caulkers"!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

1 Timothy 3: Self-controlled and Respectable

Self-controlled and Respectable

1 Timothy 3:2

What has gone before...

Paul introduced and summarized the qualifications required for a person to be considered for the office of overseer: above reproach and well thought of. First on the list was faithfulness in marriage, followed by sober-mindedness, meaning alert and ready.

Moving on...

The next requirement for the office of overseer is that of self-control.

"An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled..." 1 Timothy 3:2 (ESV)

This seems related to sober-mindedness, with both characteristics focusing on remaining out of danger, maintaining caution. Being sober-minded means a person is alert and prepared, and self-control is the consequence of that vigilance: safe from harm or loss.

Paul uses the same word three more times, all as part of a description of godliness:

"[Elders must be] hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled...older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled...[older women likewise are] to be self-controlled..." Titus 1:8; 2:2-5 (ESV)

The definition of "self-controlled" includes a reference to being moderate in opinion or passion. This seems directly connected with Paul's final concluding summary: overseers must be well thought of by outsiders.

"Respectable" is Paul's next description of a person who is above reproach:

Paul also previously used "respectable" in his description of a godly woman, the only other instance of this word in The Bible:

"Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness - with good works." 1 Timothy 2:9-10 (ESV)

Here, Paul was using "apparel" figuratively for a woman's outward behavior, describing "respectable" behavior as being characterized by good works. The essence of "respectable" is that of proper, well-tended appearance which portrays honestly an inner godliness.

The root word of "respectable" is often translated as "world":

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man." Acts 17:24 (ESV)

The world created in the beginning by God was the epitome of "respectable", an orderly arrangement. Light and darkness, waters above and below, dry land, plants and fruit trees; stars, sun and moon; sea creatures, birds, land animals...all created for the sustenance and stewardship of the first man and woman and their children. Male and female, God created them, so very alike to one another, but critically and essentially different, made to match and complement. God thought of everything, and it was good.

It was very good.

The world and all that it contained was given as a blessing to Adam and Eve, to favor them with goodness. God created man, male and female, in His image, to have dominion over the world in the same way the God has dominion over all universes. Adam and Eve were to begin with the model shown them in the Garden of Eden and multiply, spreading God's "orderly arrangement" over all the earth.

Such a noble task would require the people to be above reproach, with faithfulness to God's image and purpose, sober-mindedness and self-control. Overseeing the world requires a person to be "respectable".

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Real Relationship With Jesus

A Real Relationship With Jesus

Today's post is written by my wife, Robin Reynolds, taken from a message presented at a recent Healing Hearts Bible study. The message strikes deeply at the heart of what being a Christian is, and I'm grateful for Robin allowing me to post it here.

Being a Christian, a follower of Christ, isn't about following a list of rules. It's not about going through the checklist...Did I read my Bible today, did I pray, did I got to church this week?

No. It's about our relationship with Jesus Christ.

How dare we? How dare we reduce being a Christian to a simple set of rules. How dare we act as if the King of kings and the Lord of lords did not sacrifice His life so that we can have forgiveness of sins, an abundant life, and an intimate relationship with Him? How dare we behave as if this life that He has given us is all about us and our rule-following?

Sorry to burst everyone's bubble, but it isn't all about us. "Looking out for #1," and "having it our way," are lies of the Enemy.

Being a Christian is about having a relationship.

How is your relationship with Jesus? Do you have a relationship with Jesus? A real relationship? Do you know what a real relationship with Him looks like? Do you know how a real relationship develops?

Why is a relationship with our living Lord necessary?

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins...but God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trepasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved...I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."

Ephesians 2:1,4-5; John 10:10 (ESV)

How do we behave when we love someone? We love our children, don't we? A parent's love is so powerful. We will do anything in order to see that our children are happy, with full bellies, a warm home, and clothes for their backs. But, more than seeing to their basic physical needs, we want them to flourish. We want them to feel loved; we want them to have joy and peace and to feel safe.

For those who are married, consider how your relationship with your husband first developed. Look back to when you were dating and were really wanting to pursue that one flesh relationship. We did all we could do to spend time with them. We did everything in our power to please them. We were so wrapped up in them that we neglected other people and other things in order to spend time with our beloved.

That is how we are to pursue Jesus.

Consider the price paid by God the Father and His Son, Jesus. It was no small price! Jesus endured anguish in His sacrifice for us. He left hehind his equality with God and became nothing, embracing total humility. He experienced betrayal, abuse, arrest and imprisonment, torture, violent assault, near death, excruciating pain...and crucifixion. Jesus was rejected despised, forsaken and abandoned.

Why did Jesus willingly embrace this level of suffering?

"God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."

Ephesians 2:4-5,8 (ESV)

We were each born sinful, condemned to death, condemned to hell, condemned to an eternity without God. But Jesus saves us from that doom.

Salvation is a gift!

Why did Jesus endure the cross and all the horrendous things that led up to it?

"As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him...for your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds."

Psalms 103:11, 108:4 (ESV)

Jesus endured the cross because of His great love. It's not because we said a prayer, or because we in our own strength chose or decided. It was because He loved us with an everlasting love. He extended His grace to us so that we can have life. He died and rose again so that we would have a way to become His children and be in a close, loving relationship with Him.

It is not a natural thing to pursue God.

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Isaiah 53:6 (ESV)

"The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do."

Galatians 5:17 (ESV)

Our flesh, our natural self, is opposed to God.

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

John 15:4-5 (ESV)

It is only because of His Spirit that we have any desire to have a relationship with Him.

So, what are you willing to order to have a real relationship with Him? A relationship with the One Who gave everything, the One Who gave His very life for you? Is He a necessary, deeply longed-for part of your life? Or are you simply surviving, content with going with the flow? Is your life thriving and fruit-bearing because of your God? Are you intentionally living with Him, purposely pursuing Him?

What does a genuine, intentional relationship with Jesus look like?

Think of the man who found treasure in a field and was so incredibly joyous at what he had found that he went home and sold everything in order to purchase the treasure. Are we that in love with Jesus? Can we look at our life...our thoughts and actions...and say, "Here is someone who loves Jesus!"

Do you have time for Him? Do you talk to Him, listen to Him? do you Obey Him? Trust Him? Love Him?

Are you walking in unbelief? Do you really believe that He can be trusted? Or are you anxious about the future, or worried about "stuff"? Are you secure in the knowledge that He loves you more than you can understand, and he will always do what is best for you?

Do you know that you are His precious child?

Are you hardhearted? Have you already made up your mind about what your life should look like? Do you desire to have God guide you? Do you recognize His voice when He speaks to your heart? God communicates to us through His Word, thorugh circumstances, and through other Christians.

Do we have spiritual ears to hear?

"Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil."

Hebrews 5:14 (ESV)

"You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone."

James 2:22-24 (ESV)

Being in a relationship with Jesus means that we are immersed in His Word, we know it, we read it...we take it in: morning, noon and night. we practice it and we put it into action.

We spend time in prayer, talking and listening (mostly listening!).

"He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness."

Hebrews 12:10 (ESV)

We know Him well enough to recognize when He brings about circumstances in our lives in order to bring us closer to Himself.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

Matthew 5:6 (ESV)

It means we lay down what we think we are due, what we think we deserve, and we hunger and thrst after righteousness so that we can be filled.

"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

"Therefore encourage one another with these words."

1 Thessalonians 4:18 (ESV)

We spend time with other Christians, encouraging others and being encouraged by them.

"So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."

Romans 10:17 (ESV)

"Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?"

Galatians 3:2 (ESV)

"Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?"

Galatians 3:5 (ESV)

We listen to His Word and learn from Him so that our fiath will grow.

"Pray without ceasing."

1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)

"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

"Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved."

Philippians 4:1 (ESV)

Are we thankful? Or do we complain about our lot in life?

Has He called you? Has He opened your eyes to see your need for Him? Have you yielded and answered, "Yes!"?

Let's love Him so much that we are willing to lay down and sacrifice all that we are and have, in order to please Him.

Let's have a real relationship with Him, a relationship far more than superficial words and half-hearted actions.

It isn't fearful to submit to someone who loves you with an everlasting, unconditional love.

To know Jesus is to love Him.

Get to know Jesus, make Him your closest friend, and He will take care of everything else.

photo credit: Alan Cleaver via photopin cc

Modified by Milt Reynolds using GIMP.

Monday, August 5, 2013

1 Timothy 3: Shame


1 Timothy 3:3

What has come before...

Violent people, smiters, find it a pleasure to pound flat into the ground anyone who might challenge their personal privileges of superiority.

"Insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers" taught whatever "truth" might profit them. Perverting or contradicting the foundational teachings of Christ, they effectively persuaded others to abandon faith, trading it for legalistic, traditional religion.

Moving on...

The definition of "sordid gain" includes the notion of "shame", vividly described by Paul in his letter to Titus.

"He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach." Titus 1:9-11 (ESV)

The people contradicting the truth of Christ, and greedy for the money paid for them to teach error, ought to have felt shame. But obviously, they did not.

What is "shame", and why didn't these leaders feel it?

The root of "shame" means disfigurement or disgrace. A child born with a cleft, or any "unnormal" condition, may not feel shame, but their parents most likely will.

"I felt that no one understood; most people seemed curious, and a few even malicious. Some people made light of my problems and were impatient and bored with my constant concerns. I feared that they might look upon my baby with repulsion, that they might discriminate in favor of more typical-looking children." (Joanne Subtelny, mother of a child born with cleft lip and palate.)

Shame is the fearful emotion that results when someone expects to suffer rejection or scorn or punishment from those whom they respect or admire. If the mother of a child born with a cleft were surrounded with friends who also had children with similar conditions, she would not feel shame.

When Joanne Subtelny changed her opinion of other people, she found her fearful shame greatly reduced.

"It took a while for me to realize that their reactions were their own business and that all I could do was be prepared with straightforward answers to their questions. I had to learn that the only attitude I could control was my own...all too frequently our egos are vitally involved. We may worry more about how we can explain the condition to other people, and what they may be thinking, than we do about how we can help our children thrive...Just remember that you are not alone, that you are not the first or the last to face this challenge. Many other parents are dealing with the same situation this very day, and there are people and resources available to help you."

This mother's experience is a good example of the source of shame. The people whom we admire most, the people with whom we long for friendship and enjoyment, can become our feared enemies: people who could ostracize, criticize, manipulate and punish us.

That fear is called shame.

Why did the sordid leaders in Ephesus feel no shame? Their teaching pleased the people they most admired. The leaders had little respect or friendship with Paul. The crowd of people surrounding these leaders were more than able to supply all that they wanted: money, influence and popularity.

Shame is not dependent upon what a person believes is right or wrong...shame is entirely dependent upon what others think is right or wrong.

A manager caught embezzling funds from his employer felt his world crumbling:

"The manager said to himself, What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg."Luke 16:3 (ESV)

Why the shame? There must have been many beggars in the city. Why not join them and become like them, enjoying their fellowship and admiration as he rose in the ranks of professional begging?

Most likely, the manager's circle of influence, his friends, the people he admired, regarded beggars as weak, dirty and disgusting. To become a beggar, the manager would have to lose all the support and enjoyment he had once possessed in his friends. Rejecting him, they would scorn him, perhaps beat him.

Worse, they might pity him.

Interestingly, the manager turned his shame into surprising success. He contacted a few important clients and discounted their obligations, most likely using the profits earned by investing his boss's money on the side. He used the money to do favors for people he admired in order to maintain their friendship and support.

The manager's boss was impressed by the man's smarts.

"The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness." Luke 16:8 (ESV)

The implication here is that the manager paid back to his boss all that he had stolen and used what was left over to make friends with important people.

Who told this story? Jesus! Jesus offered the story of the dishonest manager as an encouraging example of faithfulness.

"I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" Luke 16:9-12 (ESV)

In what sense was the dishonest manager faithful?

The manager got one thing right, and it happened to be one of the most important things of all: it is best to use things and love people. He realized that his act of embezzlement was a sin of selfishness, stealing from others to benefit only himself. It was an act of faith in that he trusted in something he could not see with his eyes. How others react to our love for them is not something that we often can see ahead of time. To treat others with love requires that we have faith that love works good for others.

When a criminal is exposed, fearful shame is a realistic expectation. The dishonest manager was right to expect rejection, scorn and punishment. However, he turned that shame to success by using the money for which it was intended: to do something good for other people.

When the man acted faithfully, using money for the purpose with which it was intended, he was rewarded by friendship and support from those whom he admired most.

Shame sloughs away and turns into surprising success when a person's words and actions create a strong circle of friendship and support from others.

The leadership in the church of Ephesus ought to have felt shame. They were teaching falsely and leading unjustly. However, they were rewarded for their false teaching. Their words and actions pleased a sufficient number of people, who then gave the leaders money, influence and support.


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