1 Timothy 1:1- 11 Part 2

As I mentioned in the last post, Paul had issued a warning, documented in Acts, to beware of certain people in Ephesus who were preaching a different doctrine, drifting into myth and speculation, and not stewarding the faith in the proper manner. Here, he is urging Timothy to stand up boldly for the true faith of Scripture, “proclaiming the true and original message of faith As taught by Christ and the apostles,” (pg 2094, ESV Fire Bible).

What is that “true and original message of faith”? Verse 5 of our passage says, “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” I really like the first two lines of the study note in the ESV Fire Bible for this verse. It says, “The ultimate goal of all instruction from God’s Word is not Bible knowledge in itself – knowledge cannot save us – but an inward spiritual transformation that radically changes ones moral character. If genuine, this change will express itself in love and purity of heart (i.e., total devotion to God in thoughts, motives and behavior),” (pg 2094).

We hear lots about purity nowadays. We hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. You need to keep yourself pure for your future spouse. It’s something that the world doesn’t seem to care about anymore. And it’s something that’s difficult to do, because of the pressures put on us by the world, unless we stay plugged in to the Word and lean in to the support of Holy Spirit. But if we do stay in the Word, stay in tune with Holy Spirit, if we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), the automatic result will be purity of heart from which moral purity follows naturally. But if we drift, get distracted, listen to the voice of the world, we can be drawn away quickly.

We need to know who we are listening to and not let those outside influences distract us from the voice of our One and Only. And that’s not always an easy thing to do. Sometimes the voice will be a voice calling from the wilderness, a generic voice of the world saying that this is okay or that is okay. “It’s okay to live together, you’re probably going to get married eventually anyway.” “There are dozens of pens in the supply closet, this one won’t be missed.” It’s like the cartoon of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Don’t give in to the devil’s voice.

Other times the voice is a friend, even a close friend. “Oh come on, we’re adults. What’s wrong with an R- rated movie? The sex scenes (or the violence, or the foul language, or the depictions of the occult,…) aren’t that bad.” “Come on, the party’s going to be great. You don’t have to drink (or get high) if you don’t want to.”

And sometimes the voice is a professing strong Christian, or even a close family member. “But don’t forget what Paul said, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet,”” (1 Timothy 2:12). (Okay, opening a huge can of worms here. Much more on this in a future post.) And sometimes those loved ones, family members, or purported strong Christians fall into the realm of verses 6 and 7, which state, “Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.” (ESV). They read the Scriptures, but they don’t listen to Holy Spirit for proper interpretation, they only listen to their own thoughts, or those of the world, and they end up being off, taking things out of context. And when it comes to being off, a little or a lot makes no difference. Off is off when it comes to the Word of God.

Our only influence should be Holy Spirit. He lives inside us. He knows us better than anyone else in the world. He is the Spirit of God, given to us as a gift, to be a helper to us when the voices of the world start calling out to us. He is the Voice of Truth spoken of in the Casting Crowns song. So, the Voice of Truth, Holy Spirit speaking inside of us, keeps us focused on our King of kings and LORD of lords, Jesus. And staying focused on Him, being in His Word, keeps our minds renewed, resulting in a pure heart which, naturally, leads us to keeping ourselves pure. Pure of heart, pure of mind, pure of body. This should be our aim.

This week’s Scripture memory verse is Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Last week I forgot to include some questions for thought. This week, I’m remembering in time. So, what voice do you listen to most often? Do you listen to the Voice of Truth? Or do you tune it out and listen to friends or family or voices of the world?

READING PLAN
Day 15: Gen 28-29 Psalm 15 Matt 18
Day 16: Gen 30 Psalm 16 Matt 19
Day 17: Gen 31 Psalm 17 Matt 20
Day 18: Gen 32- 33 Psalm 18:1- 24 Matt 21
Day 19: Gen 34- 35 Psalm 18:25- 50 Matt 22
Day 20: Gen 36 Psalm 19:1- 6 Matt 23
Day 21: Gen 37- 38 Psalm 19:7- 14 Matt 24

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, it’s been quite a while since I wrote. And as you discovered last week, the main reason is, I’ve been struggling. It’s been a really rough year. And it’s been an all over struggle, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, with a little bit of financial struggle thrown in for fun. But I’m on my way back. There’s still a long way to go, but there are improvements in all areas and I’m on a definite upswing.

One of the things I’ve struggled with, not just over the last year, but throughout the life of this blog, is writing on a regular basis. One of the reasons, I believe, is not having a clear cut purpose for this blog. Well, that is changed. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again here, “I have decided to follow Jesus.” And I mean that literally, figuratively, and humorously as well, since every time I think or write that line actually sing it out. What I mean is, while I’ve tried using the blog simply to complete assignments for classes, or to showcase some of my writing, both of which will continue on occasion,  I have not had a clear purpose. It’s all been sort of thrown together whenever I’ve gotten around to doing something. Sure, there was purpose to the writings for my classes, but nothing ongoing, continuing – habit forming. And that’s what I believe I need right now, something habit forming.

So, there is now a theme to this blog. I’ve been trying to figure out how to combine some of the things I’ve been trying to do. Part of my physical struggle has been due to stress from trying to do too much. But I believed, and still believe, that each of the “too many” things I’ve been trying to do are things that I really am supposed to be doing. I’m now figuring out how to combine some of the things to be able to do the God assigned tasks yet still reduce my stress level. Pray for me that I am successful.

So, the new theme for the blog is going to be the youth Bible study that I had been doing. The biggest difference, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s available to everyone. I’ll be posting every week, sometime on Sunday. And, yes, I have several posts banked already in case life gets in the way again. The other writing things may still happen, the school assignments, the occasional short story, but the primary commitment is at least one Bible study per week.

There will be a Scripture memory verse and a few questions for discussion or reflection. And, the biggie! A read the Bible in a year plan. Who’s with me? When was the last time you read every day? It’s really not all that bad. Yes, it requires discipline, but if we are going to be disciples of Jesus, we need to be disciplined. Keith Moore of Faith Life Church in Branson, Missouri says we need to discipline ourselves like Olympic athletes. Yes, that’s a LOT of discipline, but it really is worth it. The sense of accomplishment alone is worth the effort, but the better benefit is getting the Word inside you. You need to keep filling yourself with the Word until it starts spilling out of your mouth.

I know this intimidates many of you, especially the students. How are you going to get all this reading done in the middle of the school year when all of your teachers are acting like their’s is the only class you have, and they all schedule tests on the same day? Start now! Over the summer, get in the habit. It may seem like a lot of reading, but it’s really not all that much. Put down your phone and pick up the actual Book, and read for 20 minutes a day. I say again, it really is worth the time investment.

I’m using the reading plan at the back of my ESV Bible that I use for travel. There are readings from the Old Testament, Psalms, and the New Testament. You can use whatever plan you want, just be in the Word. Also, if you are following the plan, but the LORD arrests your attention on a particular passage, by all means, stay there. Don’t move on because the plan says you should if God is telling you to tarry for a while. The main thing to remember is that this is all about relationship. If a passage strikes you straight in the heart, dwell there with Jesus until you get things worked out. Read to learn, read to grow, read to become more like Jesus. Just remember, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” (2 Timothy 3:16- 17).

So I hope you’ll join me on this journey, not just through the Bible, but through the studies, and my adventure to grow in obedience to form a regular habit of writing and study. I’m excited to see what the LORD has in store, and to learn and grow with you.

The first memory verse is the verse above, 2 Timothy 3:16- 17. It seems as good a place as any to start.

READING PLAN
Day 1 : Gen 1- 2 Matt 1- 2 Psalm 1
Day 2 : Gen 3- 4 Matt 3- 4 Psalm 2
Day 3 : Gen 5- 6 Matt 5 Psalm 3
Day 4 : Gen 7- 8 Matt 6 Psalm 4
Day 5 : Gen 9- 10 Matt 7 Psalm 5
Day 6 : Gen 11- 12 Matt 8 Psalm 6
Day 7 : Gen 13- 15 Matt 9 Psalm 7

Catch the Chariot

Ok, here it is, finally, my second story submitted to the Faith Writers weekly contest. This one scored a “Highly Commended.” It’s been strange, working at my writing. I don’t think I’ve ever made so many changes to anything I’ve written. I am beginning to look at it as a craft. I look forward to crafting more for you all in the future. Enjoy!

The room was full, the buzz, incredible, the excitement, palpable. Peter and John moved from one to another, quickly praying, laying on hands, then rejoicing as another believer poured forth his love for the Son with expressions understood only by God. It was as it had been for them on the day of Pentecost when Holy Spirit first came, praise, worship, pure love spilling from their mouths in a Heavenly language.

Philip watched from the wall. He arrived at this place from Jerusalem in fear, fear for his life, for being a follower of the Way, fear of the people here because of the stories he’d heard. These were the dreaded Samaritans, those who had allowed themselves to be corrupted, those whose worship was no longer True. But arriving here, running for his life from the persecution, he found them to be kind, loving, and real, different from those who followed the Sanhedrin, the ones who killed Jesus, Stephen, and so many others. Solace was found with the ones he had been taught to fear, and fear came from those who were meant to give solace.

He watched with joy as more Samaritans were filled with Holy Spirit, pouring out adoration to God in their new language of love. Suddenly a voice said, “Leave this place and go to a land that I will show you.” He shook his head, digging a finger in his ear, thinking there must have been a fly buzzing. Again the voice said, “Leave this place. Go to a land that I will show you.” There must be a mistake. Those were words spoken to Abraham, father of a great nation. But the voice came again, softer, gentler, yet compelling, “Just start walking, My friend. I will show you the way to go.”

Philip picked up his pack, walked to Peter in the middle of the room, saying, “Hey, Pete, I gotta go. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve got something I have to do.”

Peter, still in the throes of excitement for the Samaritans receiving Holy Spirit, gave a wave of dismissal, “Yeah, sure. See ya later.”

Philip walked out the door into brilliant sunlight, the voice saying, “Go south to the road, the desert road, that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” And so he did. He walked the dry, dusty path that served as a road, twisting and turning through the desert, sun beating down, the breeze gently wafting all traces of moisture from his skin. In the distance, dust arose from the wheels of a chariot, also headed south. The voice buzzed in Philip’s ear, “Go over and join this chariot.”

“You want me to WHAT? How am I supposed to catch up with a chariot that far ahead of me? Do you have any idea how fast a horse runs?”

“Just do it. Trust.”

So he ran. In spite of the heat, in spite of the condition of the rutted path, in spite of everything, he ran. A trail shot off to his right. His ear buzzed, “This is the way. Run in it.” Veering off the path, the trail dipped into a long-dried river bed, and rose again, depositing Philip just yards behind the chariot.

Philip could see the occupant, seated, reading from a scroll. As he approached, he heard the words, “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

“Hey,” called Philip, “I said HEY. Slow up a bit, would ya? Do you have any idea what you’re reading?”

The large, dark skinned man in the chariot signaled to his driver to stop. Philip, panting, hands on knees, catching his breath, twisted his head up, looking at the man, obviously Ethiopian. The man scanned Philip for a moment, taking in the dust covered tunic, the dirt streaked face, and the feet, the beautiful feet of this man who seemed to appear out of nowhere, running and actually catching his horse drawn chariot. “How can I understand if no one explains it?” was his reply, “Come, join me on the journey. We will talk.”

And so it was that Philip led the Ethiopian to Jesus and the salvation He provides. What came after that is a tale for another day, but suffice it to say, the continent of Africa would never be the same again. The director of accounting for the great Queen Candace of Ethiopia saw to that.

Matthew 16:16

When I was a kid, about 10 years old, as far as I can remember, my neighbor and best friend Linda was going to a group at a church. While I thought I would never forget, I find that the ravages of time are proving me wrong on that, and I don’t remember what the group was called. I do remember that we often had the childhood version of an highly intellectual debate over which group was better, her group or Girl Scouts. (“My group is better.” “No, mine is.” “No, mine is.” No, MINE is.” “NO, MINE is.”)

Anyway, I went with her one time as a visitor. I was reluctant as it was held in a church, but went because she was my best friend. Many of the activities were similar to Girl Scouts, until… “Okay everyone, get out your Bibles…” What? Bible? I don’t have a Bible. What do we have to do with a Bible? “It’s time for Scripture memorization.” WHAT!? What do you mean I have to memorize something from the Bible!?

Yep, that’s right. Everyone had to memorize a verse – right then and there – and recite it to the group. Wow. Right there, I knew Girl Scouts was better!!! But I was stuck. I had no choice but to comply. So, someone loaned me a Bible and I flipped through the pages. I sort of remember my thought process, looking for something short and easy to remember, but not embarrassingly short. I was, after all, a guest, representing my friend Linda. And so, I memorized a verse.

Thirty five years later, as a new seeker, not yet committed in my heart to follow Jesus, not really sure of anything going on in my life at the time, but knowing that I’m at a breaking point and something’s got to change ‘cuz life as I know it is NOT working. So, I start reading the Bible. And I get to Matthew 16:16, memorized, but long since forgotten, planted, laying dormant in the ground for decades, ’til one day it bursts forth, having been watered and tended beneath the surface for all this time.

“And Simon Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.””

As I read that morning, some 35 years or so after memorizing that verse, it all came back to me. I remembered the frustration of having to do the memorization. I remembered the oddly satisfied feeling that I didn’t understand while I was doing it. And I remembered the thrilling rush when I accomplished the task that I did not want to do. And I realized the Glory of God, that day, as I thought about the planning to get me set up for just this point in time, when I would do all this remembering. And I realized that God really does think about me and care for me, and work for my good at all times, even in the games of ten year olds, and the debate about Girl Scouts or whatever.