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Daily Bible thoughts 1036: Friday 18th December 2015: 1 Timothy 6:17-21: A divine perspective on wealth.

 1 Timothy 6:17-21: A divine perspective on wealth.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Earn all you can; save all you can; give all you can.’’ John Wesley

Here are some final thoughts from this wonderful letter to Timothy:

The transience of riches: ‘’Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain…’’ (17). It is. Banks have collapsed before. A bad business decision, an unexpected redundancy, a shift on the stock market, and it can all come crashing down. These words give us the insight that there were rich people in the early church. They needed to be reminded not to make wealth their god. No-one should trust in money. It is fickle. ‘’Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow.’’ The Message.

The usefulness of riches: ‘’…God…richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.’’ (17b), and a big part of the enjoyment lies in having the privilege to give it away (18): ‘’Command (this is not an option!) them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.’’ Someone said that money makes a good servant but a poor master. Timothy was told to command the rich Christians not to live in servitude to their wealth; neither in the worship of it. Rather, they were to let it serve the purposes of God through them. ‘’Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage – to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous.’’ The Message.

Lasting riches: ‘’In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.’’ The way to keep your money is to give it away. This is counter-intuitive, but all who do so find that God’s laws of economics work differently. ‘’If they do that, they will build a treasury that will last…’’ The Message. If you invest your money in the bank of heaven what an eternal return you will receive. Is giving a joy to you? This is one major way to check out the state of your heart.

Prayer: Lord God, you have blessed me with so much. Again, I am faced with the challenge of being a good ‘steward’, and I so want to ask for your help with this. I commit to you all I have received from your generous Hand. Please show me how you want me to use it, and help me to be obedient.

Daily Bible thoughts 1035: Thursday 17th December 2015: 1 Timothy 6:11-16: Put on your running shoes.

 1 Timothy 6:11-16: Put on your running shoes.(please click here for todays passage)

The great evangelist, D.L. Moody, said that he had more trouble with D.L. Moody than any person he knew.

Most weeks, I run on certain mornings. I have no doubts about the fact that I can only run because of the health and strength God gives me. But I have to do the running. I have to make a choice to get out of bed, put on my running shoes and expend the effort. I am always glad I did, even if I don’t feel like doing it initially.

Run from (11a): ‘’But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this.’’ The Message. We should choose to put distance between ourselves and sin. Timothy was to flee from heresy and greed – I believe the context suggests this. Of course, there are many other things to show your heels. I was impressed to hear a well-known Christian leader say that one day, while he was walking in a forest, he came across a pile of pornographic material someone had discarded. ‘’Do you know what I did?’’ he asked. ‘’I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction because I know I can’t handle stuff like that.’’

Run towards (11b): Not only should we resist certain things. Positively, there are certain qualities to pursue and put on. ‘’Pursue a righteous life – a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith.’’ The Message.

Run in the light of (13): We live in the light of God’s presence and Christ’s return ‘’which God will bring about in his own time’’ (15a). I do wish some date-setting Christians would get this into their heads!

Like running, the Christian life takes effort. There are things we have to do: ‘’…flee…pursue…Fight…Take hold…keep this command…’’ But we do not do these things in our own strength. It is ‘’God, who gives life to everything’’ (13), and He enables us to ‘run’.

Bill Hybels says, ‘’You are the most difficult person you will ever have to lead.’’ Isn’t that the truth?!

But what a wonderful God we have with us and for us:

‘’I’m charging you before the life-giving God and before Christ, who took his stand before Pontius Pilate and didn’t give an inch: Keep this command to the letter, and don’t slack off. Our Master, Jesus Christ, is on his way. He’ll show up right on time, his arrival guaranteed by the Blessed and Undisputed Ruler, High King, High God. He’s the only one death can’t touch, his light so bright no one can get close. He’s never been seen by human eyes – human eyes can’t take him in! Honour to him, and eternal rule! Oh, yes.’’ The Message.

Keep your eyes on Him and you will run well.


Daily Bible thoughts 1034: Wednesday 16th December 2015: 1 Timothy 6:3-10: You can’t take it with you.

 1 Timothy 6:3-10: You can’t take it with you.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

Someone said, ‘’You will never know that Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.’’

I heard a young woman give a testimony on one occasion. She was a Christian, but she said that she had been through a period in life when she felt ‘’so discontented’’. Then, in reading her Bible, these words hit her (6): ‘’But godliness with contentment is great gain.’’ (6). They brought perspective and changed everything in her outlook.

What lies at the back of this passage is the lust for money; the love of money. False teaching and money-grabbing tend to go together. When you see greed for monetary gain in a leader/preacher it should set off alarm bells in your head. Be wary. If you are in a position of leadership in the church, and you sense such desires growing in your heart, that is an ‘eye’ to be gouged out and a ‘hand’ to be cut off (Matthew 5:29, 30). Don’t allow such longings to stay. Go to war against them. They may well destroy you if you let them stay. So, as the Sergeant used to say in ‘Hill Street Blues’: ‘’Do it to them before they do it to you.’’

Paul says there’s a standard of teaching by which you can ‘measure’ all teaching, and anything out of true should not be tolerated. In his day he knew of false teachers ‘’who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.’’ (5; Hebrews 13:5). Again, the problem here is the focus on money and the greed for it. The tenth verse has been misquoted as ‘’The love of money is the root of all evil.’’ It isn’t. But it is a serious problem. It leads to bad places. It can lead your heart away from Jesus so that your devotion is given to an idol that will bitterly disappoint (10). You can’t take it with you (7). We should be content with the basics of life (8). God may bless us with more, but it is wise, and right, to cultivate thankful, contented hearts. ‘’Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough…Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.’’ The Message.

False teaching has to be dealt with. It is like a serious infection; a contagion that will spread: ‘’If you have leaders who teach otherwise, who refuse the solid words of our Master Jesus and this godly instruction, tag them for what they are: ignorant windbags who infect the air with germs of envy, controversy, bad-mouthing, suspicious rumours. Eventually there’s an epidemic of back-stabbing, and truth is bit a distant memory. They think religion is a way to make a fast buck.’’ The Message.

A well-known preacher was asked to speak at a meeting in the Stock Exchange in London. He said he wanted to entitle his talk: ‘’You can’t take it with you, and if you could it would burn!’’

Prayer: Lord, keep my heart free from the love of money

Daily Bible thoughts 1033: Tuesday 15th December 2015: 1 Timothy 6:1, 2: He’s my brother.

 1 Timothy 6:1- 2: He’s my brother.(please click here for todays passage)

I heard a story about a private soldier who was attending a communion service. When it came time for him to leave his seat and go and receive the bread and wine, he noticed that his major was in the queue behind him. So he stood back to let the senior officer go first. But the man refused. As the story goes, he said, ‘Anywhere else, but not in here.’ We are on level ground before the cross.

Paul did not campaign against slavery. It would have been futile for him to do so under the Roman Empire. But it could be argued that he sowed the seeds of its destruction in his revolutionary teaching about masters and slaves. They could sit together in the same pew, you might say, and call each other ‘brother.’

However, Paul wanted the Christian slaves to understand that they should not abuse their privileged position of serving fellow-Christians (2). They were not to ‘short change’ them in any way.

Whoever we are; whatever we do; whether we are slaves or free, we need to understand that by our behaviour we can discredit the God we claim to love and the teaching we say we follow. There is urgency about understanding this point because so much is at stake. It really is important. Eyes are on us, and how we live matters.

‘’Whoever is a slave must make the best of it, giving respect to his master, so that outsiders don’t blame God and our teaching for his behaviour. Slaves with Christian masters all the more so – their masters are really their beloved brothers!’’ The Message.

Daily Bible thoughts 1029: Wednesday 9th December: 1 Timothy 5:17-25: Regarding elders.

 1 Timothy 5:17-25: Regarding elders.(please click here for todays passage)

It would seem that in the earliest days of the church, the local congregations in diverse places were led by a plurality of elders. There is no sign, in the New Testament, of the proverbial ‘one man band’ who does it all by himself. Here are five clear instructions Paul gives to Timothy regarding the elders:

Honour them appropriately (17, 18): Where an elder is released from other work to serve the church full time he should be properly recompensed.  ‘’Give a bonus to leaders who do a good job, especially the ones who work hard at preaching and teaching.’’ The Message. The old and much-vaunted attitude that went, ‘’Lord, you keep him humble and we’ll keep him power’’ is unworthy of any church. Okay, it’s probably a caricature, but there was a day and age when, for whatever reasons, many pastors were ‘on the bread line’. Good leaders should be rewarded with generosity. I believe it is true to say that we also need to look for appropriate ways to honour the faithful elders whose salaries may come from other sources. Let them never feel unloved or unappreciated. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25: 4 (see also Luke 10:7). Those who give up other earning opportunities to serve the church full time should be properly supported.

Hold them accountable (19): Paul does not envisage a situation where the elders become ‘the untouchables.’ He is realistic. He knows that some will fall into serious sin. It cannot be the case that they can get away with stuff just because of their position. But they have to be protected from trivial or unfair attacks. Leadership is not easy and church leaders can be lied about on occasions. When the devil is on the prowl this is only to be expected. He is an expert in the diabolical art of lies and half-truths. He is the master of deception. ‘’Don’t listen to a complaint against a leader that isn’t backed up by two or three responsible witnesses.’’ The Message.

Discipline them publicly (20): As a general rule, private sins should be dealt with privately and public sins publicly. In the case of elders, because of the public nature of their rule, church discipline will regularly have to be carried out publicly. This sends out a clear message to the whole church that sin is serious. It also serves as a warning to any other leaders who may be in danger of going down the same route. ‘’If anyone falls into sin, call that person on the carpet. Those who are inclined that way will know right off they can’t get by with it.’’ The Message.

Be impartial (21): Don’t be inclined to go easier on some leaders more than others because they are friends, or because you like them more etc. Let there be strict fairness in dealing with these matters.

Don’t appoint lightly or quickly (22): Take the necessary time to do due diligence. Think it through; above all pray it through. Consult with others. Get references if needed. A bit like with marriage, if you do this in haste you may find yourself repenting at leisure.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Head of the church, I pray for the under-shepherds you have appointed. Keep them faithful to you and to your people right to the end of their days. Preserve them in temptation and deliver them from the evil one. Give to them the honour which matters most – that which comes from you. Help us to always gratefully and lovingly support them in their often difficult work. Remind me to show appreciation when I should.

Daily Bible thoughts 1028: Tuesday 8th December 2015: 1 Timothy 5:9-16: Saved for good works.

1 Timothy 5:9-16: Saved for good works.
This church was organised to care. That much becomes evident as you read through chapter 5. It reminds me of the caring structure established in Acts 6:1-7, and that move, of course, led to further evangelistic expansion. A lot is at stake in the caring ministry of the church. The larger the church is, the more likely it is that there will be a need for careful planning to ensure that people do not fall through any gaps. God loves people and the church is to reflect that love. We can’t afford to be careless about caring!
But the care was not indiscriminate (9, 10). There were certain parameters built around the help on offer. These may change from generation to generation and culture to culture, but any caring ministry will require certain criteria to be observed if the church is not going to be overwhelmed. The church looked after widows who were ‘’really in need’’ (2, 5, 16). Again, the principle is repeated that families should take care of their own (16).
Good deeds are important in the Christian life (Ephesians 2:8-10). We are not saved by them, but we are saved for them. This chapter shows the church being organised to do good to their widows in genuine need. Life expectancy was not all that great at the time, and no doubt the care of widows was a pressing need. You can imagine that they would have no support whatsoever after their spouse died, but for that given by close relatives, or the church. There would be no pension or death benefit etc.
The passage also shows that the widows to be helped had to have a good standing in the church (9, 10). They needed to be known for their good character expressed in a variety of good deeds. The next section concerning the younger widows goes on to point out that it is possible to live in such a way that it gives the enemy opportunity ‘’for slander’’ (14). Clearly Paul was not happy with that prospect. Satan is always ready to seize opportunities to undermine God’s work. Let’s take care that we don’t play into his hands. (Paul, by the way, seems to be thinking about younger widows who offer for some form of Christian work, verse 11, and who would then be placed in a difficult position if they wanted to marry. They would be seen to go back on their ‘’first pledge’’, verse 12 – their commitment to some form of Christian service.)
The chapter closes in an intriguing manner. As Christians we are called to offer secret service, but truth will out (25). This applies to the good as well as the bad. You can’t really hide who you are.
‘’Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’’ (Galatians 6:10).

Daily Bible thoughts 1027: Monday 7th December 2015: 1 Timothy 5:1-8: Practical as a pair of shoes!

 1 Timothy 5:1-8: Practical as a pair of shoes! (please click here for todays passage)

‘’…let them learn that religion begins at their own doorstep and that they should pay back with gratitude some of what they have received. This pleases God immensely.’’ The Message

It is said that ‘’charity begins at home’’, but true religion starts there too. The eighth verse is such a strong statement: ‘’Anyone who neglects to care for family members in need repudiates the faith. That’s worse than refusing to believe in the first place.’’ The Message. In a section of practical instructions about different relationships in the church, Paul states clearly that Christian families should look after their own. This is a sacred responsibility (4).

But where someone is truly destitute (3, 4); where there is ‘real’ need, the church should do what it can. Let’s remember that Paul was writing in a context where there were no state benefits to be had. But the principle still applies in our culture. Where there is genuine need we can show we are Christians by our love (John 13:34, 35; Acts 4:34a).

Ethel Barrett writes: ‘’Christianity is as practical as a pair of shoes – not just for putting on and showing, but for getting up and going.’’

D.L. Moody said: ‘’Every Bible should be bound in shoe leather!’’

Our ‘’religion’’ must be ‘’put into practice’’ and it starts at home, which may be, for some, the hardest place to walk it out. But we only believe as much of the Bible as we do.

It pleases God when we remember the good things done for us by parents and grandparents and we honour them in our conduct towards them. Even if they don’t need 24 hour care, they should know that we love them; that we appreciate them. ‘’…this is pleasing to God’’ (4).

In the opening two verses we find wisdom for young men in ministry (but not exclusively for younger men.)

In (5) there is a principle which applies more broadly. When anyone, or any ministry, is ‘up against it’ and doesn’t know where the next penny is coming from, they are thrown back on God, and their prayer life intensifies. God answers prayer, and He does it through His people. Where we know of genuine need and we can meet it, it is surely not up to us to pray about it, but to dig into our pockets and put our religion into practice.

Prayer: Lord God, please strengthen me to live out my faith at home today.

Daily Bible thoughts 1020: Thursday 26th November 2015: 1 Timothy 4:6-16: Embody the message.

 1 Timothy 4:6-16: Embody the message.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Restlessness is discontent, and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.’’ Thomas Alva Edison.

Timothy was given a tough assignment. He had to work in the same arena where the false teachers were active and stand his ground. Here are some things he was told to do:

  • Teach the truth (6, 11, 13, and 14). Where there is darkness the entrance of light will dispel it. Whereas Timothy was to teach God’s Word verbally, he also was expected to do so visually; to live it out before men. ‘’Teach believers with your life…’’ The Message. He was called to lead by example (12); to embody the message. Indeed, Paul wanted people to be able to see Timothy’s ‘’progress’’ (15), both as a preacher and as a man. Apparently the godly Scottish pastor, Robert Murray McCheyne , said, ‘’What my people need most from me is my personal holiness.’’ It remains the case that leaders/preachers should ‘’Watch’’ their lives and doctrine ‘’closely’’ (and) pursue growth constantly. ‘’Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it.’’ The Message. Timothy’s teaching was to have at its heart the gospel message of salvation in Jesus (9, 10)
  • Turn away from error (7). We can’t help others reject heresy if we are enamoured by it ourselves. There can be an unhealthy fascination with unimportant speculative material.
  • Train to be godly (7b, 8). The idea of training implies work and effort. You think about an athlete training for a big race, and how he or she is disciplined; how they keep working, working to improve their time, even if only marginally. They are constantly straining to get better, and make numerous sacrifices in the process. They push themselves. They don’t take the easy option. We should all want to become better people, more and more like Jesus. Those of us who lead ought to have a strong desire to get better at what we do. This involves trying alongside trusting. We try even as we trust solely in Christ’s power. ‘’Exercise daily in God – no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this.’’ The Message. Timothy had the example of Paul to copy as he read his words, for the great apostle (and his team) certainly put their backs into their ministry (10): ‘’This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally.’’ The Message.

‘’If believers would put as much effort into the spiritual life as they do their recreation and hobbies, what a difference it would make! Physical exercise is important, but spiritual exercise is even more essential. Both discipline and devotion are needed to make a winning athlete and an effective Christian.’’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.799.

Prayer: May other see Jesus in me more and more.

Daily Bible thoughts 1009: Wednesday 11th November 2015: 1 Timothy 3:14-16: Truth matters.

1 Timothy 3:14-16: Truth matters.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

We need to understand that there is behaviour which befits church members, and there is conduct that is unbecoming (14, 15). There are ways to be that have an ‘’ought’’ attached to them. They are obligatory rather than optional. We have spent two days looking at what church leaders ‘’ought’’ to be. The truth is that this ‘ought’ applies to all of us in the church. Leaders must be a certain way because all God’s people are called to live like that. Shepherds are to be models to their sheep. If we conduct ourselves like our leaders we shouldn’t be going too far wrong. (Otherwise, something has gone terribly awry with the leadership.)

The church is a wonder and a marvel, and it has an important relationship to the truth. It is not composed of a bunch of deluded people who believe in fairy stories. It is made up of those who care about truth; they know the truth has set them free. Leaders in the church are not to play ‘fast and loose’ with the truth (2, 9). The revealed truth of God is to shape and govern their consciences, and all their teaching and living. They must be people of the Word, following the ‘Map’ placed into their hands by the Lord, and showing others the way from this same Map. The ministry of Biblical preaching is vitally important to the health of a local church. It cannot be sacrificed without terrible cost. Paul calls the church ‘’the pillar and foundation of the truth.’’ It’s been said that there are two aspects to this ministry: guarding and defending the truth (‘’foundation’’); and lifting it high, proclaiming it (‘’the pillar’’). A pillar thrusts something upwards and holds it aloft; a foundation (or bulwark) prevents something from falling down. The church has this dual protective and proclaiming ministry with regard to the truth.

Ultimately, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of truth (John 14:6). He is at the heart of the church’s message. The living Word is the centre point of the written Word. It all converges in Him and focuses on Him. This chapter concludes with a beautifully succinct statement about Jesus (16).

‘’The Christian life is a great mystery, far exceeding our understanding, but some things are clear enough…’’ The Message.

People may disagree about what aspects of the career of Jesus some of the lines in this short ‘hymn’ are describing. But no one can miss the central point that it is about the glory of Jesus and the success of the gospel in the world. That is what the church is all about, proclaiming and defending the eternal truth about Jesus to the glory and praise of His Name forever.

Prayer: Lord God help me to always stay on the rails of your truth.

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