Thursday, May 28, 2009

Three Nuggets from I Timothy 4, part three

First things first - read I Timothy chapter 4 (click here) and if you haven't done so, read my previous two posts (part 1 and II).  The third nugget is a very familiar passage found in I Timothy 4; however, in my experience, the emphasis of this passage is often mis-directed.  I'm speaking, of course, of verses 11-14 - the "don't let anyone put you down because of your youth..." passage.

Often this verse is used to encourage young people to assert themselves and to not be discouraged or de-railed by critics...and to be sure, this is true.  However, if we stop there, we've missed the point of these verses.  And what is the point, you ask?  The point is to "set an example" by the way you live your life.  Or, as Eugene put it in the Message translation, to "teach believers" with your life; by words, demeanor, love, faith [or faithfulness], and integrity...

Let's make this personal; it would be easy for me, a young leader and a young pastor to "flaunt" this verse in people's faces when I get criticized or feel marginalized; and yet, that is not the point.  I am instead to use my life as a way to "teach" or "model" to believers the way of discipleship.  A devoted life to Christ speaks louder than any words that could ever be uttered.  In other words, when people look at me, a young leader, do they see Christ?  This is the challenge.

Paul's ends this section with these words, which is how I'll end this post;
"Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching..." - remembering the words of St. Francis - "preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Three nuggets from I Timothy 4, part 2

First things first - read I Timothy chapter 4 (click  here) and if you haven't done so, read my previous post (part 1).  Now, on to the second nugget...and remember, these are just things that God impresses on my heart as I read...(and by the way, the picture has absolutely nothing to do with this's just a cool picture I took).

The 2nd nugget that jumped off the page at me is this secion; "stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion.  Exercise daily in God - no spiritual flabbiness, please...a disiplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever."  This passage is so straightforward, it really doesn't need me to explain or write anything's that clear.  However, I will share what hit me...

First, stay clear of silly seems that right now, there are multiple places where I'm hearing some version of "major on the majors, minor on the minors."  As a pastor, and a worship pastor noless, I am constantly hearing "ideas" [read "complaints"] about how we could or should be doing things.  Too light, too dark, too many trees on stage, not enough trees on stage, too many hymns, not enough hymns - that it's easy for me to get pulled away from the things that are truly important; namely, helping people grow spiritually into being disciples of Christ.  This exhortation about avoiding and staying clear of silly stories is a reminder for all of us; focus on the things that matter in life, the things that last.

Which leads right into the 2nd part of this section - to exercise daily in God w/a disciplined life.  Elsewhere in the NT, Paul refers to the Christian life as a race, a race we should run to win.  In order to win a race, you need to train, and to discipline your life in a way for that training to be a regular staple...which brings us right back to I Tim 4; no spiritual flabbiness!  I confess, I am not the most disiplined person and this is something I have to work at...but the more I do discipline myself to "exercise daily in God," the more I see myself be the person God designed me to be...a disciple.

The challenges are two-fold for us; first, avoid silly arguments and don't allow others to bring you into them...they're a waste of time...major on the majors, and minor on the minors.  Second, discipline your life to be exercising daily in God.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Three nuggets from I Timothy 4, part I

First things first - read I Timothy chapter 4 (click  here).  A familiar chapter, for sure, but perhaps you haven't read this version before?  I want to highlight three things in my next couple of blog posts that immediately jumped out at me...

1) Freedom in Christ.  One of the hot topics of the early church was regarding these laws about what they could and couldn't eat.  Then in the book of Acts we read about Peter's vision with the food coming down from heaven and the voice telling him to eat.  The point?  Well in that case, there were two points; 1) all food is made holy by God and is ok for eating and 2) the gospel of Christ was not just for Jews, but for all the world, Gentiles as well.  Here we read in Timothy that they're still dealing with this issue of freedom.  Paul warns Timothy not to sucumb to the pressures of the "false teachers" (or "liars") but to stay true to sound teaching.

All of this made me stop and think and ask, what are the issues that we face today?  What are the things that the "false teachers" of our time are trying to get us to do (or not to do)?

We started a sermon series through the book of Habakkuk and one of the themes from the first part of this book is this idea of letter of the law vs spirit of the law; or, put another way, focusing and enforcing the minor points of the law while ignoring the more important major points of mercy and justice.  The law always points to justice.  "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" the Lord says (Hosea 6:6).

Now tie this idea back to this chunk of I Timothy 4, and it makes me wonder, how many times in my life have I focused on the proper "truth" or understanding or theological point, while ignoring the weightier issues of justice and mercy?  Loving the poor, sharing the gospel, reaching out to those in need?  This is where my conviction lies; not that understanding, theology and doctrine are not important...they are.  However, even more important is what I do with that...the application of my knowledge.  In other words, as Pastor Dave once put it, my "orthopraxy."

The greatest challenge remains for us; as a disciple of Christ, we are to follow His lead.  Go therefore, and do likewise...

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Tough Day

It's Mother's Day today...a tough day for me.  I lost my Mother unexpectedly almost 2 years ago.  It still hurts.  I remember all of the Mother's Days past, when I was younger...typically she'd get some flowers from us, maybe a hand-made really didn't matter though.  Anything we would give her was huge.  She was an amazing woman, and someone I still miss.  I have a part of my website devoted to her life (which you can see here ).

All of this rambling to simply say, it's a tough day today.  I shared a little about this in our church services this morning; and then, for special music, we sang this song called "Still."  If you're like me and having a tough day today for whatever reason, let the words to this song soothe your soul a little bit...but also, don't shy away from the pain, embrace it.  Let the memories flow and if tears come too, so be it.

"Still" (by Reuben Morgan) - You can hear/see this song by clicking here .

Hide me now
Under your wings
Cover me
within your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father you are king over the flood
I will be still and know you are God

Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know his power
In quietness and trust

Not enough just to be "right"

So I'm reading in 1 Timothy (in the Message) and came across these words yesterday;

"It's true that moral guidance and counsel need to be given, but the way you say it and to whom you say it are as important as what you say." (I Timothy 1:8)

This is key advice for all of us, that basically says, "even when you're right, it's not enough to just be right."  In other words, when/if we are ever in the position of needing to correct someone or point out the error of their ways, or simply to give some sound moral advice, it is very important to consider not just what you say, but how you say it.

Really, this is just good, sound advice for all of us for many different situations.  How often we mis-understand each other or have conversations that escalate unnecessarily not because of what was said, but because of how it was said or to whom it was said.

As a pastor, this is a skill that is crucial.  I'm constantly having conversations with all sorts of people about all sorts of things.  It's important to know who I'm talking to, how they will receive what's being said, and to choose my words in a way that the message is heard.  I don't always do this is something I'm constantly working on.

So how about you?  Do you choose your words carefully?

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Eph 4:29, NIV)