The good fight

RE Verse reading–1 Timothy 1:1-5; 12-19 (day seven)  “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son. . .that. . .you fight the good fight.”–v 18.  No one knew better than Paul the cost of ministry to the God-called man.  Both command to be obeyed and treasure to be guarded, ministry is always a privilege, and always a fight.  ”Until you know that life is war, you cannot know what prayer is for” says John Piper.  (Thanks, Doug Sewell.)  And lay servants of Christ are not exempted from the battle stress.  Earlier in his life, and to the residents of this same city, Paul wrote these words, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”–Ephesians 6:10-11.  None of us should be surprised when life is difficult, disappointing and draining.  We knew all along.  It’s gonna be a fight!

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“Stay people”

RE Verse reading–1 Timothy 1:1-5, 12-19 (day six) “As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines”–v 3.  I wonder how Timothy felt when Paul told him?  “I need to go, but I want you to stay.”  Ephesus had never been an easy church to pastor.  The task must have sounded IMPOSSIBLE to young Timothy without Paul.  But God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.  Over the next years Timothy would learn much about pastoring, and about the perseverance that is required.  He would deepen and develop as a leader. Some people come and then go from our lives.  We are thankful for them, even for the brief moments of their influence and encouragement.  Others leave when things get difficult,  when it isn’t fun anymore.  Not much help there.  Other people come and STAY!  We are MOST thankful for them.  ”Stay people” God sends.

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Re: Verse reading – 1 Timothy 1:1-19 (day five)

To Timothy, my true child in the faith:,                                                                                        15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance,

A new strategy we began last year was to partner teenagers in a “leadership track” with mentors, and have them meet regularly over the course of a year.  The marked difference in their faith, perspective, and emotional stability was noticeable.  As we read 1 & 2 Timothy, we catch glimpses of a phenomenal mentoring relationship.  One of the primary desires in the NextGen Ministry is to “Partner with Parents” in the faith development of their kids. I’m wondering if mentoring (both to kids/teenagers and parents) might be a good picture of how a church can invest and grow the “Next Generation” of believers and leaders in God’s Kingdom.  Let’s look for ways to teach and encourage “trustworthy statements” of our faith, and the life lessons learned through our own mentoring or personal experience.

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Come to Save Sinners

Re: Verse reading – 1 Timothy 1:1-19 (day four)  It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,”  Who was Jesus?  Why did He come?  What do I have to do with Him?  These are the questions that each one of us must ask…and answer.  It is so easy to just ignore the questions.  If we never ask the questions, then we don’t have to face the answer.  Timothy was in Ephesus to help the church answer these questions.  Already, the church was straying from the Gospel taught by Paul.  They were justifying things that were contrary to righteousness.  When you reject God’s law, you can come up with excuses to justify behavior that has long been contrary to the standards of righteousness.  The more a culture turns away from the Word of God, the more darkness encroaches on the mores of society so that what has always been considered evil is now considered good.  Remember…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners!

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Re: Verse reading – 1 Timothy 1:1-19 (day three)
“The goal of this command is love.”
Paul calibrated these instructions to the baseline of love–not power, not social influence, not even more “acceptable” standards such as doctrinal purity.  Paul echoes here what he revealed to the Corinthians: The most noble aspirations and accomplishments, unless they spring from love, will evaporate without a trace.  If the church will ever speak with power and influence, if it will ever gain a hearing for correct doctrine, it will do so only by leading its people to become the kinds of persons who love–who “will the good for the other,” which is the definition of love.  For Paul, love wasn’t a good way to get the job of church growth done; love was the job.  Are you becoming the kind of person who wills the good for the other above all else?


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Instruction Matters

Re: Verse reading – 1 Timothy 1:1-19 (day two)
They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. (vs. 7) You know these kind of people. The kind who have a vehement conviction about something, but when pressed to articulate why they have nothing to ground their argument. We are to be a passionate people, who can share, defend, argue with love all of the attributes of our faith. Instruction matters. Your spiritual development matters. If you are not already, find a Sunday School class that will challenge you and cause you to grow. Enroll in Christianity Explored to deepen your understanding of Mark’s gospel. Join a Circle of Six where you can find a greater appreciation for God’s Word. Paul’s words to Timothy regarding his instruction continue…I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight. (vs. 18)

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2nd Ephesians

Re: Verse reading–1 Timothy 1:1-19 (day one)
“I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door of effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries”--1 Corinthians 16:9.  “Timothy. . .as I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus, in order that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines”–1 Timothy 1:3.   The first book of Ephesians, Paul writes TO them.  The second book of Ephesians (aka 1 Timothy) Paul writes ABOUT them, about the difficulties that will face their new young pastor.  Ephesus was never an easy place to build a church.  From the very start (no honeymoon) Timothy faced false teachers and the vocal, hostile opposition.  Paul will later call ministry (there, and in general), “a fight”. (v 18) As you read these words this week, reflect on the difficulties that we face as we unite to build a New Testament church in the center of this city.  Easy?  No!  Noble?  Necessary? Yes!

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Submission, Spirit

Re: Verse reading–Ephesians 5:21-33, 6:1-9 (day seven)
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”-v 21.  Submission is a Spiritual ethic.  Impossible without Him.  It is one (and only one) of the indicators of Spirit-filled life that Paul lists in Ephesians 5:18-21.  Speaking to one another with songs. . .giving thanks for all things. . .being subject to one another–these are the outward proofs that the Spirit of God has entered and filled your heart.  Does your life evidence these things?  They do not come by force of will or application of effort!  Only the Spirit can produce such outcomes.  “The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God; for it does not subject (same word) itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.”–Romans 8:6-7.  Those who ignore the basic step of being filled with the Spirit will find submission to be undesirable and impossible.

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Spirit-filled, ego-freed

Re: Verse reading–Ephesians 5:21-33, 6:1-9 (day six)
“be subject to one another in the fear of Christ”–v. 21.  Submission is a lightning-rod issue in this age.  People (all of us, not just women) resist the loss of autonomy and self-determination that it implies.  Demanding our rights (and feeling entitled to do so) blinds us to the wisdom of this eg0-displacing step.  Those who submit to Christ and are subsequently filled with His Spirit (rather than self–see v. 18) find freedom.  NO PRISON is worse than self!  ”There is nothing so pathetic as a person determined to be crucified on the cross of personal grievance”–Abraham Lincoln.  And, NO FREEDOM is sweeter than to serve God and others without competition or anxiety.  When Paul speaks about family (wives submit to your husbands, husbands love your wives, children obey your parents) he assumes we already have some  experience of this ”more excellent way”.  Ego is not my savior.  It is, very often, a trouble causing tyrant.

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Don’t Miss the Gospel

Re: Verse reading–Ephesians 5:21-33, 6:1-9 (day five)
It is easy for me to read these words and let my thoughts race towards expected behaviors and attitudes spelled out for husbands and wives in this passage.  “This will be Hard for me to do!” “Will this really make me Happy?”  Seems that this puts “me” as the focus of the text.  Not a hopeful perspective.

But, if I see the Mission and Work of Jesus in this text, then something amazing happens.  I am thankful and humble because of His title- Savior (v23).  I am reminded of His Great Love and Sacrifice (v25).  I am aware that His intention was to make people (made dirty, ugly, and depraved by sin) beautiful, clean, and Holy (v26).  I see His great eternal hope for humanity (v27).  I then, am filled with the same optimism and eagerness in my marriage and relationships with others.  I have a completely changed perspective “Filled with the Hope of the Gospel”.

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