1 Timothy 1:12-16

“I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our LORD, because He judged me faithful, appointing me to His service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our LORD overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” (1 Tim 1:12-16 ESV)

Yep. This would be me, and every sinner, saved by His grace and mercy. We all think we are the “foremost.” But He does judge us faithful and appoint each and every one of us to His service.

Yes, as I said a couple weeks ago, it’s easy to say “Yes” to Jesus. But there is a cost to discipleship. When we turn our lives around, start walking with Jesus instead of away from Him, there is a price to be paid, a job to be done. It’s not a free ride or a government handout. We have work to do. We have been called into His service.

And what is this service, you ask? While there will be some variation, mostly it is to live your life for Jesus.When I was a new Christian, I heard someone scythe the Christian’s life is sometimes the only Bible a non-believer sees. People are watching you, more than you may ever know. When Jesus comes into your life and you make that 180 degree turn, and people start noticing that you are different, they will ask. “What happened? What’s changed?” And that’s when you have the opportunity to tell them, “Well, Jesus became the LORD of my life. And with His help I have given up cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs with no withdrawal symptoms, no cravings, no real problems whatsoever. The desire for Jesus just drove out the desire for all the other things.” (Yes. This is what happened to me. Over the course of about one month, I went from smoking nearly 3 packs of cigarettes a day, drinking at least a quart of bourbon a day (Yes, every day), and smoking about an ounce of pot a week, to clean and sober. I gave it all up, cold turkey. I walked away from it all, straight into the arms of Jesus.)

Before I let Jesus in, I called myself”Spiritual.” I believed there was some sort of superior being, god, if you will, but I didn’t see god as God. And I certainly didn’t get the whole Trinity thing, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I didn’t get the religion thing, the you have to believe this way, or that way, or whatever way. I was very much an individualist. One friend from high school recalls me saying, “All this religion crap is bunk,” or words to that effect. She, a very devoted Christian, (who prayed for my salvation for about 28 years – Thanks Deb – Love you!), was debating with another student, from Iran, about Jesus vs. Allah. Not only do I remember the debate, we were waiting for the start of geometry class, but I also remember telling them that I thought they were both “cracked.”

Those who knew me in my days BC (Before Christ), and who know me now, know what a great transformation God did in my life. And that, my friends, is the point to the last line in this passage, that “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to this who were to believe in Him for eternal life.” He waited, patiently, (even more patiently than Debbie’s 28 years) for me to come to the point in my life that I could say yes to Him, let Him redeem my life from the pit of hell and become an example of His great love, patience, mercy, grace, forgiveness, all of the above and even more so.

He turned my life around, and now I serve Him. Everything I do is for His glory. I work for Him, I rest for Him, I even play for Him. It’s all for Him. Thank You Jesus. His patience is for you too. He will wait for you. His mercy and His grace is for you. He will extend it to you whenever you ask. So I ask you, what are you waiting for? Just open your heart to Him, say, “LORD, I’m sorry for all I’ve done against You and Your Word. I do believe in You, Jesus, and I want You in my life. I ask for your forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Please come into my life to rule and reign. Thank You.” It’s that simple.

And when You have done this, please, let me know. It’s not required that you let anyone know, in fact, in some countries it’s safer if you do keep it to yourself. But, for the most part, it’s easier in community. God will lead you if you’re on your own, but having someone pray for you, guide you, point the way and direct you around the pitfalls, just helps.

For this week’s Scripture memory verse let’s stick with today’s theme, 1 Timothy 1:16, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display His perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life.”

READING PLAN

Day 36 Exodus 15-16 Psalm 33 Mark 12

Day 37 Exodus 17-19 Psalm 34 Mark 13

Day 38 Exodus 20-21 Psalm 35 Mark 14

Day 39 Exodus 22-23 Psalm 36 Mark 15

Day 40 Exodus 24-25 Psalm 37:1-22 Mark 16

Day 41 Exodus 26-27 Psalm 37:23-40 Luke 1

Day 42 Exodus 28 Psalm 38 Luke 2

 

Psalm 28:1- 5

To You, LORD, I call; You are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if You remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to You for help, as I lift up my hands toward Your Most Holy Place. Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts. Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back on them what they deserve. Because they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD and what His hands have done, He will tear them down and never build them up again.  Psalm 28:1- 5 (NIV)

Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.  Psalm 51:10 (ESV) 

These are the two Scriptures that have been on my heart today. There is so much polarization in the country right now, and I just don’t know what to do about it. My prayer is that I be a part of the solution rather than a part of the problem. 

In Psalm 28, David, the author, tells God that if He remains silent in the situation, then he will sink down into the pit with the evil doers. Basically saying, LORD, if You don’t help me out, I’m gonna go off on someone. And I think there are a lot of people in America who feel that way right now. But not all of them have a relationship with God, not all have Holy Spirit inside to help them make Godly decisions. So we who are Christian, who do have Holy Spirit inside of us, need to be especially attached to God in prayer during this time. And we, as His representatives on earth, have to do what He would do.

We, as the LORD’S representatives,  cannot remain silent. We cannot sit here and just watch any more. We need to lead the way to change. And the only thing that can bring the degree of change that is needed is love. “And they will know we are Christians by our LOVE.” 

I was discussing some of the perceived differences between the races last night. We started out somewsomewhat heated, but as we both persisted, explained what we meant, and listened respectfully to each other, we made some progress. We have a ways to go, but we took a step. What it mostly comes down to, I believe, is misunderstanding. And I don’t mean this in any sort of cavalier way, but I mean a deep misunderstanding of thoughts, feelings, emotions, and even words. We need to sit down and talk, define words, what we mean when we say, whatever. We need to find the common ground and walk into the future together or we will all be destroyed.

This will still take some time, so we need to be patient with each other. I wish we could change everyone in the blink of an eye, but we can’t, so we need to keep taking the baby steps now. But we can’t stop. We need to keep moving with those steps. And just as a child learning to walk, if we fall, we can’t just sit there and cry, we have to get back up and try again. “Let us run with endurance the race set before us.” Hebrews 12:1

This week’s Scripture memory verse is going to be Psalm 51:10, and let it become your prayer, not just for this week, but forevermore. “Create in ME a clean heart and renew a right spirit within ME.” Let the change begin with YOUR love!

READING PLAN 

Day 29  Exodus 2- 3 Psalm 26 Mark 5

Day 30 Exodus 4- 5 Psalm 27 Mark 6

Day 31 Exodus 6- 7 Psalm 28 Mark 7

Day 32 Exodus 8- 9 Psalm 29 Mark 8

Day 33 Exodus  10- 11 Psalm 30 Mark 9

Day 34 Exodus 12 Psalm 31 Mark 10

Day 35 Exodus 13- 14 Psalm 32 Mark 11

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

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.