Living a Christ Like Life

Heb 12-13

 

These two chapters in Hebrews seem like a condensed “how to” pamphlet on living a Christ like life. The author lists out quite a few things that will keep our faith alive and healthful if we follow them over a lifetime. Let’s take a look at some of them.

1, “Love each other as brothers and sisters.” Do you find yourself more willing to offer help to your siblings than to others in your life? If so, this is a beautiful way to orient our minds to love others. Thinking of others as “family” may soften our hearts to those around us and help us to dig a little deeper as we care for others.

2, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers.” I think busyness can kill hospitality faster than anything. Taking time to bring others into your home for a visit, a meal, or an overnight is deeply meaningful. It builds relationship, shows honor and makes others feel valuable.

3, “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” The author phrases these reminders so well. If you put yourself in another person’s place and sit with their circumstances for a few minutes, it changes your perspective and helps you support and encourage people that need it.

4, “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage.” Do we honor marriage in our current culture the way we used to, say even 50 years ago?  I feel like because our culture values marriage less than we used to, marriage is easier to slide into and out of. The author is crystal clear here about how we should think about marriage if we want to live like Christ.

5, “Don’t love money, be satisfied with what you have. For God says, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” When I want something that I don’t need, my thoughts almost never include the fact that God is all I really need. If I could change the way I think about “stuff/things” to factoring the gift of God’s presence into my equation, I would have a different outcome every time!

6, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all of the good that has come from their lives. Also, obey your spiritual leaders. Their work is to watch over your souls and they are accountable to God.” A good reminder. Sometimes we get critical of our leaders or simply take them for granted. Remember to think of the good that has come from their lives.

7, “Offer, through Jesus, a continual sacrifice of praise to God and proclaim allegiance to His name.” “Continual” pops out to me this morning as I read through this guideline. When we follow God we all find or make specific times throughout our week for praising God. The more time I concentrate on who He is and praise Him for it, the more changed I am. What could my life be like if I could get to the place where I praised Him continually?

8, “Don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” Simple and concise…it is clear what actions are Christ like. If you are characterized by sharing with those in need, I challenge you today to see if you can increase your sacrifice.

9, “Pray for others (and for ourselves) to live honorably in everything they/we do.” Living honorably in all I do is honestly not happening on this earth. I am human and broken and I won’t be “honorable in all” until I get to heaven, but I can pray for “honorable in more of what I do”. I also love the power of being able to pray this help into the lives of those I love.

I’ll leave you this morning with the author’s blessing from the end of chapter 13.

 

“Now may the God of peace-who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood-may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever!”

Think Bigger

Hebrews 11

What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?  The question is designed to evaluate your faith.  It is a hearty challenge that requires us to stop and define why we could not fail.  Consider the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1.   It says that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”   If we have faith, we will act.  We will act assuredly of the things in which we hope.  More than that, our actions are driven by our full conviction of the Truth.  So, as long as we have faith, we cannot fail.

So, what would you do if you could not fail?  The truth is that I am afraid to answer the question.  When I attempt to, I see that I think way too small.  Consider the examples Paul uses in Hebrews 11.  He calls out Abel’s offering, Enoch’s cheating death, Noah and his ark, Abraham sacrifices Isaac, Jacob traveling to foreign lands, Sarah and her baby, Joseph takes over Egypt, Rahab welcomed spies, Gideon won the battle, Barak conquered Sisera, Samson massacred an entire army of Philistines, Jephthah defeated the Ammonites, David became the king, Samuel prophesied for all of Israel, and all the prophets, well, you get the idea.  This is a list of the faithful.  This is what the faithful do.

So, what would I do if I knew I could not fail?  Apparently, I would do what I am doing now. Unfortunately, doing what I am already doing doesn’t get close to the life that God created for me.  That’s true for you too. Sadly, few of us ever determine to become the creatures of infinite joy that God created us to be.  Why not?  I find an interesting answer from C.S. Lewis.  He says,

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

It is time that we ask God, directly, what we are missing.  We need not be afraid of the answer.  Do you know why?   The truth is that you cannot fail.  You cannot fail because you have already won.  Jesus paid for this victory on the cross.  All we have to do is claim the victory and relish in His glorious celebration.

 

Lewis, C. S.. Weight of Glory (Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis) (p. 27). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

A Compass for the Storms of Life

The wind is gusting, the waves are crashing, and the ship is rocking. The captain cannot see where he is going.  During the storm, the combination of wind and rain make it impossible to see out the windows of the ship.  Managing the direction of the vessel is impossible without instruments.  Namely, one of the most important instruments for the captain of the ship is the compass.  The compass does not fail.  It directs the captain, regardless of the wind speed, the height of the crashing waves, or the pitching of the vessel, the compass directs the captain where to steer the ship.

Your phone rings, and your sister tells you she is sick, and the prognosis is not good.  You are talking to your cousin, and he tells you he and his wife are getting a divorce. You get a text and one of your children tells you they are depressed and having a difficult time.  You take your spouse to the doctor to find out they have a life-threatening illness and there is a slim chance of survival.  The list goes on. The “storms” in our lives are real.

Navigating life can be like sailing a ship through a storm.   There are many “battles and storms” for us to fight.  Difficult situations come in the form of physical ailments and illness, marital challenges, emotional or mental issues, as well as financial challenges.  All the while, we must navigate the decisions we make in the “middle of a storm” and decide which direction to “steer our ship.”

How do we make the right decision during times of the great turmoil? What is your compass?  Where do you turn for advice or counsel during the “storms of life?”

The Bible is the perfect compass.  The Word of God can be a compass that provides you confidence and solace “during the storm.”  Yes, the storms are inevitable.  We are all sinners, and we are going to make wrong choices daily.  It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when the storms will happen. Relatives get sick.  Our children and family have challenges. Life is not about preventing the storms but knowing how to “steer your ship” with confidence and assurance in the “rough seas.”

Today’s reading is from Hebrews 10:35-38 which says 35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. 37 For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38 Now the just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.

As a Christian, I continue to gain confidence that “God has got me.”  I do not “cast away my confidence” because I am confident there is “great reward” in living my life as a believer in Christ.  I have witnessed first-hand the impact a life following Christ has on families and individuals.

I am humbled by the impact Christ has had on my family.  As one example, my grandfather was one of six children, and his father abandoned his family when my grandfather was a young boy.  Unfortunately, we can all relate to sad family stories like this one.   My grandfather grew up without a father figure and could have taken his life in many directions.  He and my grandmother were the founding members of a Baptist church in Olney, IL and was a man who studied scripture and applied it to his life.  He prayed regularly and set the example for our family to choose a life with Jesus. He could have ended up angry, bitter, and frankly could have continued the string of a bad father and bad husband.  He chose not to.  He was a God-fearing man that led his family to follow Jesus Christ.  I believe he was a better man than his earthly father, because he believed in his Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ.

Following Jesus Christ does not reduce or rid us of the pain of life.  Sins still conquer us.  Emotions still overwhelm us.  We make bad choices and must live with the consequences.

Scripture provides us comfort and confidence that we are loved, regardless of the severity of our sin.  I live confidently knowing that I have a rudder and a compass during my storms, and I will “face the wind, the rain, and the waves” with a smile on my face knowing that my captain will direct me to safety.

Philippians 4:6-7 says 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I encourage you to remember that our pain in life does not reflect a lack of presence of God. God’s goodness is not contingent on our circumstances.  Our pain provides us opportunity to dive into the Word of God and seek to understand how a relationship with Christ can bring us peace and rest during the most impossible times.  God wants us to choose to love Him.  I encourage you to choose to follow Christ every day because when the storms hit, you will have an armor and confidence that you will carry you through it.

Godly Friends

Hebrews 7 is based on an Old Testament man Melchizedek, years ago I heard a message suggesting  that Melchizedek was an Old Testament manifestation of Jesus Christ. I don’t believe this is true as I’ve heard more teachings that if it were true the author of Hebrews, and other places in the bible, would mention that. He does mention that Melchizedek had no father, mother or genealogy having no beginning of days or end of life. All the Hebrews author is stating is that they don’t know anything about where Melchizedek came from because there’s no biblical record of his life except his encounter with Abraham.

I’m a big fan of reading the Old Testament, I love all the real life accounts. I love reading about Abraham and his journey. Ann Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham,  wrote a book called The Magnificent Obsession about Abrahams life, it is an awesome book and it will speak God’s truth into your life.

Even though the Bible doesn’t give any details about Melchizedek‘s life, what we do know is, Abraham knew who Melchizedek was and knew that Melchizedek worshiped the same God Abraham worshipped. He thought highly of Melchizedek’s priesthood and gave him 10% of the spoils when he returned from rescuing Lot, Abraham had great respect for this man.

Usually in the Old Testament when you read the word priest, it’s referring to someone who is a descendent of Aaron, a Levite. Melchizedek lived centuries before Aaron was born. Also, none of the Christian church leaders in the New Testament are called priest.

This made me think about who I have high respect towards in my life because of their relationship with God. These people are not people I grew up with, I don’t know much about their family history. I’m curious about how Abraham knows Melchizedek, did they spend time together talking about their God? For me, I need strong men of God around me in my life. It’s crucial that I have men with strong biblical knowledge and faith who I can talk about life’s obstacles with. It’s even better that a couple of these men enjoy a good cigar once in a while like I do, so while enjoying a good cigar we talk about life and what we feel God is saying to us in our individual circumstances. I also study God‘s word in depth with a couple of these men, these Bible studies are not superficial discussions that I’ve often encountered within my church. These are interdenominational groups, and they go deep and get personal. Transparency and confidentiality are extremely important.

Hebrews 8:1 the author is saying that the point of what had been said, in Hebrews 7, is that we now have a high priest, Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the throne of God in heaven, verse 2 says

                                   a minister of the sanctuary and the true tabernacle                                that was set up by the Lord and not man.

What sanctuary, not built by human hands, would this priest minister to? Us, we are the sanctuary and true tabernacle created by God. This priest does not need to offer sacrifices on our behalf because He was our sacrifice on our behalf. This priest did not need to come out of the Levitical bloodline, he came through the bloodline of Judah. Verse 6 says that Jesus has a superior ministry and is a mediator of a better covenant with better promises. God brought us a new covenant through Jesus Christ, a faultless covenant.

I’m getting ready to experience some major life changes and it’s easy for me to get hung up on feelings of being afraid, lost, unorganized, undisciplined, unloved, lonely, idle and unproductive. This is not what God wants me to experience because that’s not really who I am. My heavenly priest Jesus Christ reminds me that

I am courageous                                                                                                                      I am focused                                                                                                                             I am systematic                                                                                                                       I am disciplined                                                                                                                        I am loved                                                                                                                                 I am connected                                                                                                                        I am active                                                                                                                                I am effective

These are the affirmations in my life Jesus Christ confirms when I read His word and pray to Him daily. They are the words my closest friends use when speaking truth into my life. They align perfectly with God’s promises in my life as I often need to remind myself that

He chose me,                                                                                                                         He adopted me,                                                                                                                   He favors me,                                                                                                                      He forgives me,                                                                                                                    He has sealed me,                                                                                                                He has redeemed me,                                                                                                         He has saved me and                                                                                                         He made me an heir with Christ.

I’m thankful for sticky notes hanging around my desks about eye level reminding me how I’m favored by God and I’m thankful for God putting certain people in my life to help me navigate the craziness in this world. As the Beatles said, we all need a little help from our friends.

His Rest

Last week when the plane touched down in the city where I live I had an overwhelming emotion that almost brought me to tears. I was finally home; tired, not really physically but emotionally. Too much travel, too many events, too many items on the “to do list”… too much of too much…

Leading up to that business trip I told my family I will not travel for work until late January. It only took me four days to start formulating plans to break that promise. Fortunately while authoring this post I became convicted and am going to stick to the promise. That’s the Holy Spirit at work.

The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again. (Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister)

That’s a quote that I use often in business as it rings true for technology, competition, innovation as well as global crises. Those words could bring anxiety and they could bring excitement depending on your attitude toward change. I use the quote to inspire and challenge, to change mindsets from “soon this will all be over” to acceptance of the new reality, to prepare for and even embrace constant change rather than fearing changes and quickly becoming irrelevant.

With the constant change, are you finding it more difficult to slow down and rest? Look at your events calendar for the past few months… Is it completely full? And what about the space between appointments, what happened then? I confess to actually having pride in seeing my calendar booked nearly every hour of every business day. Yes I know this is the wrong path and I also know I’m not alone in this mindset. God knows your heart, you can admit it too.

Real rest

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. (Hebrews 4:1)

Note that Hebrews 4:1, 3, 7 refer to his rest, God’s rest. When we soften our hearts, submit to him and his will, and turn to him for rest we receive something much better than a long night’s sleep. There is peace, true rest and freedom in being nearer to our Heavenly Father.

When is a better time to rest than December as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ? Dedicate time over the next several weeks to unplug, to literally turn off the mobile phone or go out for a walk without the phone or any other electronic communication device. Listen for His voice today.

So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted:

“Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts.”[e] (Hebrews 4:7)

Today’s reading: Hebrews 4-6

Hardened Hearts

Today’s reading: Hebrews 2-3

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters.  Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.  You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God (Hebrews 3:12-13)

In February 2016, the second month of our Bible Journal journey, we studied Exodus.  At God’s direction Moses kept going to Pharaoh and asking him to release the Israelites from captivity.  At every visit, Pharaoh was unyielding.  His continued refusal brought God’s wrath on Egypt, ten increasingly worse plagues.  Through the first five – blood, frogs, gnats, flies, and death of livestock – the Bible says Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to set God’s people free.  But in the account of the last five plagues – boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and dead of the firstborn – the Bible says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

I remember struggling with the thought of God intentionally hardening someone’s heart.  As I was reading our text for today, the subject of hardening our hearts came up again in Hebrews 3.  It prompted me to go back to 2016 and remind myself how I reconciled something that seemed inconsistent with the character of God.

To start, God is love.  He desires that everyone be saved by putting their faith in Jesus Christ.

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God, so turn, and live (Ezekiel 18:32).

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:3-4).

God, however, has also given us free will.  Like Pharaoh, when we persist in our unbelief, God will eventually leave us alone in our sin.  Sin, unless covered by the blood of Jesus, will lead to eternal separation from God.  See, God doesn’t choose to separate us from him by hardening our hearts.  Rather, we choose it for ourselves.  If we keep choosing sin instead of accepting Jesus, he will eventually leave us alone.  Very scary.

I am human.  My sinful nature leads me make selfish choices that are outside of God’s plan for my life.  But how do I prevent a consistent unbelieving heart that will lead God to check on out me?  I must choose to “stay the course” even when I don’t feel like it.  If I continue to have fellowship with other believers, regularly talk about my faith, maintain awareness of sin’s deceitfulness, care for others, and encourage them with genuine love and concern, I won’t be prone to chose unbelief.

For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ (Hebrews3:14).

Onesimus

Have you ever looked up the meaning of your name?  Or asked your parents why they named you what they did?  I had a plaque in my room way back when, I have no idea who gave it to me, but it had my name and meaning engraved on it….

Stephanie – Crowned in victory

The only way my name makes sense to me is because of Jesus.  Because of Him and His death on the cross for me, I am crowned in victory.  Nothing I am on this earth, nor nothing I can do entitles me to wear a crown.  Only Jesus.

Onesimus had a similar story with his name.  We read about this man in the book of Philemon.  Onesimus was a slave who had stolen from his master (Philemon) and ran away.  

Through God’s amazing ways, Onesimus ran away to Rome and met Paul.  He came to faith through Paul and his ministry.  The book of Philemon is a letter Paul wrote to tell Philemon that Onesimus had come to saving faith in Christ.  

In the letter, Paul asks that Philemon let Onesimus return to him without fear of punishment.  It was unheard of for a master to receive back a runaway slave without inflicting punishment.  Paul was aware of this which is why he offered to pay any debt that Onesimus owed.  Paul was truly asking him to not only forgive Onesimus, but to receive him as a brother in Christ.

Onesimus’s name means “useful.”  Paul uses a play on words with his name when he writes,

(Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.)                                                                          Philemon 1:11

Once a useless, rebellious slave, Onesimus became useful through the saving and transforming grace of God.

Just like Onesimus, it is only through Christ that we find our true selves and our true identity.  No matter what name we were given at birth, or what name we go by now, we become who we were made to be when God calls us by name.  Jesus took the punishment we deserved and paid the penalty at the cross.  He wiped our slate clean so that we could return home to the Father without fear.  

The book of Philemon reminds us that we are just like Onesimus and have the opportunity to encounter the gospel of grace.  Everything that we have done in the past is gone.  We are new creations, given a new name and a new identity.  

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.                                    2 Corinthians 5:17

 

Finish 2021 Well

Today’s Reading 2 Timothy 3-4 & Titus 1 

Leadership, Instructions, and Fatherly Advice were the last few posts inspiring and encouraging to us all as we lead in our ways daily.  As we continue reading 2 Timothy and Titus, Paul shares his final charge to Timothy and his advice to Titus as he takes on many church responsibilities.  I’m sure Titus was taking notes, highlighting, and jotting down his notes as he read the letter from Paul. For Titus, following a fantastic leader can be very challenging.  Leaders can make many changes to put themselves at the forefront or improve and enhance upon previous successes while walking alongside those they lead.  In Paul’s instructions to Titus, I see Paul sharing advice and providing him with a plan.  

In any leadership position, having a plan is essential. Remember, we are all leaders because we all have influence.  Paul’s advice was not of his own, but that always of our Heavenly Father. 

  • Have a good character that church leaders should have
  • How to teach to various groups
  • How to conduct ourselves

Reading through the verses between Titus and 2 Timothy, I caught myself capturing the contrast between the last days Paul warns us about in 2 Timothy 3 and what will equip us on our journey to Heaven in Titus.

Without fault Selfish 
Not arrogant – or quick-tempered  Greedy 
Not drunkard  Conceited 
Not greedy for money  Irreligious 
Hospitable  Ungrateful 
Self-controllable  unkind/merciless 
Agree with doctrine  Love pleasure more than God 

 

2 Timothy 3 

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Titus 1 

6 An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe[b] and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8 Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

What way will I choose to live? What path will you choose to lead? Many will say that we are in some of the last days.  I know that only He knows that day.  All we can do is choose how to lead every day this side of Heaven. One of my favorite Spiritual Audit questions is,  “Who did I serve in the name of Jesus today?”  Have no regrets about how and who you lead today. 

2 Timothy 4:7-8

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Finish Well!

Fatherly Advice

Today’s Reading II Timothy Chapters 1 & 2

Throughout our lives, hopefully we have had the opportunity to interact with our parents. These relationships with our parents can vary from each individual and sometimes differ in our own families.  This past weekend, many families were able to gather and celebrate with each other.  This season of holidays can sometimes be fun and merry, but it can also be difficult and painful.  Sometimes our past and current relationships with our parents can be joyful and beneficial, but sometimes they can have sorrow and pain associated with them.

Currently the relationships that I have with my mother and father are good.  Over the years we have had our differences, but we are at a place where we can each respect each other and our differences.  I know that I might be in the minority of where I have a meaningful and understanding relationship with both of my parents, but I have had to work diligently for years to cultivate these bonds with my mom and my dad. For the last several years I have intentionally worked on these relationships by increasing my communication with them on a more regular basis. I also have an understanding between them that we are all adults and we can be beneficial to each other and not have any negative feelings towards each other for any infraction on anything.

As a child I understood that my parents had the best interest in mind, but my young mind would not be able to comprehend this at that time. As a father I am seeing the same predicament play out with my children as well. Sometimes the children cannot fully understand the choices and decisions that we have to make as adults for their best interest. But as they grow and as I have grown I have seen the emotional toll that it takes older adults to make these hard decisions and that’s part of being a parent.

All these years of listening and being mentored by my father I have had some amazing words of wisdom and fatherly advice. Here are a couple that I can remember :

  • Don’t take any wooden nickels
  • Everything in the mind doesn’t have to come out the mouth
  • This ol’ world is a mean ol world, Cheer a man up in his sorrow, you might be down tomorrow.
  • You know where you came from, but you don’t know where you are going
  • Not every day can be sunny, prepare for a rainy day and keep your umbrella handy.
  • Everyone has the potential to be a thorn, but not everyone can show their inner flower.

We have been given a glimpse of some of these words of wisdom and Fatherly Advice from Paul to Timothy in this book. As we continue to review Paul’s letters and dive deeper into his message to the nine different churches and to his closest friends and associates we come to the letters that he wrote to Timothy. These letters to Timothy are some of the most personal letters that he has written in our Bible to this point. These are personal messages from a father to a son, that we have a glimpse into their relationship. At this point in their lives Paul is a prisoner under house arrest in Rome and Timothy is the principle leader for the church of Ephesus. To see the full extent of their relationship we have to go back to their beginning.

Their Journey started in Acts chapter 16 where Paul meets Timothy in Lystra and Iconium.

Acts 16: 1- 5 : Paul[a] came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers[b] at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.

At this point Paul takes Timothy as a disciple and a son. From biblical references it is assumed that Timothy is about 16. When Paul is writing the this letter to Timothy it is assumed that is about 14 years after their journey began,  so Timothy would be approximately 30 to 40 years old.To see the full picture of the letter you have to understand the relationship between Paul and Timothy. 

Paul has been a mentor and a father figure to Timothy for more than half his life. When we were introduced to Timothy, his father was not mentioned.  The other part of their relationship is that we have to assume that they are communicating to each other on a regular basis. We are only giving a glimpse of some of the communications. They could have thousands of letters written back-and-forth between each other during these times. We have been gifted with a couple of letters between the two. 

In these two letters we can see that Timothy is like us: we are adults but we still need help and assistance from our mentors and our elders. Timothy is one of the leaders or the main leader of one of the largest churches in Asia and needs help. Sometimes we need help. Sometimes we need to know how to ask for help. Sometimes we need to know how to use the help. Sometimes we need to just listen. There are several places in these two chapters that Paul is giving Timothy some sound advice.

II Timothy: 

1: 2-6;9

2 To Timothy, my beloved child:

Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control…..who saved us and called us to[a] a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

II Timothy 2: 4-7

No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

16-17

 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene.

20-21

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable,[d] he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

22-25

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord's servant[e] must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness.


Each on of these pieces that Paul is guiding Timothy with is still valid today in our society.  These are nuggets that Paul is giving his son in how to work with the people in the church and for the body of Christ.  

As we review these points, let us ask ourselves how we are engaging with each other on a spiritual level. One exercise that we could do is write a letter to our father or mother or a mentor.  

What will we say to them? What words of advice would we tell them how we are using their advice? What will we write to a son or a daughter or someone that we mentor to give them advice about what’s going on? How is God using us in our relationships to be encouraging? 

Have a blessed week.

Instructions

As I write this post, I am sitting in my room alone and enjoying the peace and quiet. Many of you have traveled and spent time with family over the Thanksgiving holiday. I find I look forward to the day of cooking and seeing family and friends, and then I truly enjoy being home and alone for a bit. Many of us had the task of cooking a recipe or two, while others mayhave had the task of making the entire thanksgiving meal. To pull off preparing the entire meal and then hosting  the meal takes enormous effort and timing. In fact, I saw a person on Instagram had made an entire binder full of every step leading up to the feast. The binder included meals, ingredients needed, table set up, order of food to be laid out, and even a diagram of the grocery store and where the food was located. It was obviously very detailed. Having all the instructions in one place and detailed surely helped the person enjoy the day a bit more as everything had a plan.

This is exactly what we see in the book of 1 Timothy, Paul’s letter to his son in faith, Timothy. Timothy was a young pastor who had been a help to Paul in his work. Paul was more than just a mentor and leader to Timothy, he was like a father to him, and Timothy was like a son to Paul. Throughout this book, Paul encourages Timothy to stand firm, to persevere, and to remain true to his calling. He gives instructions for order and structure in the church.

Our reading for today is 1 Timothy 4,5 &6.

Chapter 4 of 1 Timothy is a warning to observe the times.

Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.
1 Timothy 4:1

Paul reminds Timothy that everything is created by God and should be received with thanksgiving. He then encourages Timothy to train to be godly, to devote himself to reading the scripture and preaching and teaching.

1 Timothy 5 gives instructions about how to honor and care for widows and their needs. Paul also gives instructions about elders, and then finishes with practical advice for Timothy.

Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her.
1 Timothy 5:3

1 Timothy 6 is a reminder to be content and to pursue godliness. He instructs Timothy to flee from the desire to acquire wealth and pursue righeousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Paul, reminds him to guard carefully what has been entrusted to him.

Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge.
1 Timothy 6:20

Just as the lady preparing for a Thanksgiving feast benefitted from having a binder of instructions, how much more can we benefit from having instructions from Paul for how to live. When we follow the instructions, life tends to go much smoother and we face fewer consequences.

God has transmitted his very substance into every Scripture, for it is God-breathed. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness.
2 Timothy 3:16

Following instructions can simplify tasks, increase effectiveness, eliminate confusion, and save time. When instructions are properly followed, things work well and people work well together. These chapters in 1 Timothy are full of practical instructions for us. When we follow them we will se the effectiveness in our lives.

But, most of all, when we follow God’s instructions, we will be led in the right direction and into a deeper relationship with Christ.