1 Timothy 5-6 B

I have to admit, I don’t always agree with Paul. I have committed to submit my life to the Bible and even when it’s hard for me, I trust God and believe the best in Scripture. With that being said, sometimes Paul wears me down with how extreme, literal and intense he  seems to be.

I love chapter 5 and what it says about the church. The church isn’t a building, but a family taking care of one another, a picture of how Christ cares for us. But Paul’s extreme rules annoy me. Like, was a lonely widow who was only 59 denied care by the church because of this letter? (5:9)

Here’s what I know: God has called me to love people unconditionally. The logistics of that are tricky and require a submission to prayer and deep discernment. Do I think, at the end of the day, Paul is instructing Timothy to turn away a widowed member of the early church because she didn’t meet the exact requirements? I don’t.

The church is a body made up of many parts, working all together to represent Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12). We need the rule-followers, the intense Paul-like leaders (read: enneagram 1’s). I’ve been in a lot of different Christian communities during my time in the church, and I am confident things would fall apart without them.

So why am I dragging you along for the emotional ups and downs of my opinions on Paul? I’m convinced processes like this are crucial to any relationship with the Bible. It can withstand our doubts, judgements, questions and pushback. It can be pulled apart, one word at a time, dissected and scrutinized. It has nothing to hide from us and always holds up.

Do you have a safe person you can discuss Scripture with? Someone who will welcome your questions and complaints, yet point you back to God’s truth?

What does it look like for us to study our Bibles, as opposed to just reading it? 

 

-Carly

 

 

1 Timothy 3-4 B

I enjoyed Carly’s thoughts on chapter 3, so today I will focus on chapter 4.

In speaking to Timothy, his true child in the faith (1:2), Paul says:

“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only a little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the savior of all man, especially for believers. Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, Faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (4:7b-12)

This is a very important passage. It’s something we can’t just unpack today in one simple reading.

I think we get pretty caught up in eternity (ie. heaven or hell) and what we’ve got to believe to get here or there. We miss the wealth of Scripture when we don’t see the importance of application now.

There seems to be a way in which the Lord saves all mankind (v10) but especially saves believers. I assert that the way in which we accomplish a special salvation is in reaping the benefits of knowing Him now, in life. Godliness is profitable for all things!

The commands of God are healthy and thoroughly beneficial. Historically, the Jews survived numerous plagues unknowingly because of their application to the Mosaic Laws of diet and hygiene. I know I repeat this all the time, but God doesn’t give us commands to ruin our fun. He, as our Creator, knows the best way for us to live abundantly. This takes a measure of faith!

It’s not about age, in this case, either. Anyone who lives in submission to the instructions of God can be an example for others.

What will that look like for you? How can you be an example of love, faith and purity?

-Bethany

1 Timothy 1-2 B

“The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.” 1:5-7

A few years back, a co-worker of mine invited me to her Chat Room. It was a new social group she was starting, where you paid at the door to sit around a large round table and discuss spiritual topics and drink alkaline water. (I have to admit, typing that sentence made me a little homesick for the west coast.) I politely declined.

You guys, people are hungry for answers about the meaning of life. A friend of mine regularly travels the world to attend meditation camps and solitude retreats, digging in metaphorical sinking sand for life’s answers.

Over the years, I’ve gotten more protective over the time and energy I put into meaningless spiritual conversations. It’s one thing to push back on your own apologetics, sift through your beliefs and engage in a productive dialogue with a few safe people. It’s another thing to waste time hearing yourself talk. 

How do you engage in dialogue about God? 

Later in the New Testament, we’ll read about Peter’s instructions to always be read to explain your faith in a gentle and respectful way. (1 Peter 3:15)

No arguing, no shaming, no bickering, no Facebook-drama, no tearing down other Christians. This is not productive and this is not Christ. Let’s not miss the point!

Ladies, if you need some perspective on chapter 2, read this post from Beth.

-Carly

2 Thessalonians 2-3 B

“May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” (3:5)

Chapter two was doomsday and chapter three seemed a bit harsh. I grabbed on to this lovely verse near the middle.

I don’t always know what to do with Paul’s specific and rigid instructions . If I take it all literally, I conveniently know a church in Thessaloniki and I could barge in there and say, “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either!” (3:10) but that would come across grossly insensitive because Greece has a 60% unemployment rate, with the unemployment for people 35 years and younger being 85%. Everyone is just out to coffee with their man bun in that city! It’s hard to know who is unwilling and who is unable.

That’s why I think 3:5 is a great supervising verse. Praying that the Lord direct us, is an excellent habit and place to start. Being directed into the love of God adds compassion and peels away pride. Being directed into the steadfastness of Christ produces patience and removes entitlement.

Ask to the Lord to direct you into these, so you can be a good example of hard work and encouragement. Don’t push people away, like they’re enemies (3:15), and don’t grow weary of doing good (3:13).

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” (3:16,18)

Yes, please!

-Bethany

1 Thessalonians 5 – 2 Thessalonians 1 B

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” 5:16-22

Why is it so difficult to hold on to what is good? We tend to keep a death grip on bad attitudes, diets, advice, moments, relationships, thoughts or memories. I can rattle off half a dozen examples of something bad I’ve done, or that’s been done to me, and I bet you could too.

This is not the first time Paul advises this to the early Christians. In Romans 12:9, he instructs them “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” He understands the human tendency and he’s urging us to shake off the negative stuff and cling to what is good, true and holy.

So, what is good?

Jesus is good. The things he says about our life together with him is good.

Healthy friendships. People that bring out the best in you, encourage you and coax you out of self-destruction are good.

Laughter and joy are good! It’s a mindless, lazy habit to complain and gripe. Crumble up that tendency and toss it into the fire.

Positive thinking is good. Overthinking is, ugh.

Today, filter your thoughts through this. Is something that you’re about to do, say or think beneficial to someone or something? Sink into it.

Is it discouraging or harmful to you? Stay away!

 

-Carly

1 Thessalonians 3-4 B

Upon the verified faithfulness of the Thessalonians, and the apparent fruit from serving God instead of idols, Paul reminds them of what a sanctified life looks like. Not because he was hearing a bad report, but most likely because he understands the temptation to default back to old habits.

The habits he addresses are as old as humanity’s struggle itself. The exile from Eden (Genesis 3) came with a new reality that work would be hard and so would childbearing. This evolved into most every pagan culture serving deities that promised success in business (Ba’al, Demeter) and fertility (Ashura, Artemis, Aphrodite). These worship practices were perverted and included a lot of shady practices and sexual corruption.

I think this helps frame the pairing of these two exhortations time and time again.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God… and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” (4:3-5; 11-12)

This is an evidence of freedom; not sexually caught up, or financially bound. Jesus is making all things new and He started with us, giving us a New Life as New Creation. This was pivotal for the Greek Christians to understand, as it was 100% contrary to their culture.

How does this translate to your culture context? What measures do the people around you take to address the struggle with business and fertility? I think it’s important we think critically about this, so we can seek to find the way which Jesus leads us in freedom. What difference does this freedom make in your context?

-Bethany

1 Thessalonians 1-2 B

“And now the word of the Lord is ringing out from you to people everywhere, even beyond Macedonia and Achaia, for wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God. We don’t need to tell them about it, for they keep talking about the wonderful welcome you gave us and how you turned away from idols to serve the living and true God.” 1:8-9

Isn’t that beautiful? The new believers of the Thessalonian church were rapidly spreading the gospel by deeply living it out themselves. I can’t think of a better way.

When I was in college, a church plant popped up in the city and exploded. I showed up to a service and was surprised how stripped down it was. Lines of metal folding chairs in a community center gym, a pull-down screen and a projector shaped the “stage”. The pastor held his open Bible in one hand and never closed it, teaching verse by verse the entire message. I went back, week after week, and watched more and more chairs fill up. I overheard more and more conversation throughout town about this new growing community. For the first few years, the people that filled up the chairs were mostly college students. How do you get hundreds of 21 year olds to completely turn their life towards God, leaving behind the parties and self-indulgent lifestyles? Rely on the gospel. There weren’t programs or church events disguised as parties. Just an open Bible and a sermon anchored by the Good News.

I looked up Acts 17:1-9 on Beth’s suggestion and was shocked that Paul was only with these people a few weeks. His affection for them is so deep, and the impact the gospel made on them was so huge!

“After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! Yes, you are our pride and joy.” 2:19

Just from reading these chapters, I would’ve assumed he had hunkered down and been mentoring them for years, constantly available to field their questions and looming over them, offering constant accountability to point them back to truth.

How do you respond to the gospel?  

 

-Carly