All the Bible, Every Book: 1 Timothy–Stewards of God’s Word

All the Bible, Every Book: 1 Timothy

Stewards of God’s Word

O Timothy, protect what has been entrusted to you.

(1 Timothy 6:20)

The thirteen Pauline Epistles develop the foundational truths of Christianity introduced in the Gospels. Paul wrote nine letters to churches and four to individuals. He writes from the perspective of the Apostle to the Gentiles, church-planter, pastor, and friend. His letters contain instructions, exhortations, and corrections that were real-time—messages to real people, gathered in real churches, with real problems as they endeavored to follow Christ and make a difference in their world. One consistent theme undergirds all of Paul’s teaching—the reality of every believer’s position in Christ.

Like His Master before him, Paul gathered a group of men to be with him as he ministered the gospel. Timothy and Titus were especially close to Paul (1 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4), and he mentored them through challenging assignments. Timothy trusted Christ while Paul was ministering in Lystra (Acts 14:6-23). He then joined Paul on his 2nd missionary journey when the apostle traveled through Timothy’s homeland (Acts 16:1-3). Timothy helped Paul on this 2nd missionary journey and Paul began to view him as a faithful partner in the gospel. During the 3rd missionary journey he was with Paul in Ephesus, and then Paul began sending him on extended assignments—to Macedonia (Acts 19:22) and Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3), as he was accompanying the apostle.

It seems Timothy asked to be relieved of his leadership duties in Ephesus and the province of Asia so that he could return to Paul. In 1 Timothy Paul instructs him to remain in Ephesus because his ministry was vital, and assures him he would come to him there (3:14; 4:13). Until he arrives, this letter gives Timothy insights into church leadership.

Though this is a personal letter to Timothy, it provides some of the clearest guidance for the order of a local church. First Timothy addresses two sides to the order of the local church—what the life of the church should look like, and who should lead the church:

1 Timothy: The local church should proclaim and live Christ’s truth in the world!

The letter is a challenge to every local church and every local church leader to teach Christ’s truth accurately and to live it out authentically. … 

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Discipleship Minute: How To Focus Your Prayers in 30 Seconds

Could You Pray for Me?

I was standing on the lawn talking with people after our Sunday services. A young lady I’d never met stood off to the side with one of those, “I have to tell you something” looks every pastor knows.

When the crowd cleared, I walked over to her. “Thank you for being so patient. My name is Ed, how can I help you?”

Tears streamed down her face. “Could you pray for me, please?”

I would love to.

Words poured from her heart. Story after story punctuated by sidebar explanations I could not connect. “And then my mother told me that she heard…” “Well, I really didn’t say that, but my husband thought I did….” “I just don’t know if I can go on with all of these people saying….” “And then I lost my job….” “So you can see why I….”

Telling or Asking?

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

• The leader of your small group asks, “Does anyone have a prayer request?” and you spend about thirty minutes talking about the problem and maybe two or three minutes actually praying.
• Standing at the bedside of a close friend, you decide to pray. The Christians in the room immediately start talking. “You know, my aunt had something like this. It was her liver. Have the doctors tested your liver?” “Oh, I was sick like this once. Is your neck stiff? That’s really bad! When my neck got stiff….”
• Someone from the church calls you to report a terrible accident. “I don’t know where they are taking her. I hope it’s not to this hospital. I went there once and the emergency care isn’t very good. I almost died when the nurse gave me….”

The prayer request sounds more like a novel strung together by a series of “and then’s.” You think to yourself, surely this is the last twist of this plot, but the end never comes.

That’s the way it was with this brokenhearted woman on the church lawn. As poured out her heart, some verses came to mind:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplications, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

“Let your requests be made known unto God.” Not your stories, insights, and follow-up questions and explanations.

“Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

“Call to Me,” rather than “explain to Me” or “enlighten Me.”

The Question That Focuses Your Prayer

I put both hands on the young lady’s shoulders and broke in, “What do you want God to do?”

She seemed confused. “Huh?”

I repeated, “What do you want God to do?”

Startled back to the real issue of prayer, she said plainly, “I want God to put my marriage back together again.”

And so, finally, we asked God to do something, “Father, we ask you now, in Jesus’ name, please heal this marriage.”

It’s a revolutionary idea–to actually ask God for something–but it shouldn’t be.

“What do you want God to do?”

Your answer to that question is the only one that really matters at the throne of grace. And it is THE QUESTION THAT WILL FOCUS YOUR PRAYERS!

It takes about 10 seconds to ask yourself the question and about 20 seconds to answer it for yourself.

So, go ahead and ask!

Questions: Do you think I’m overstating this? How do you try to focus your prayers?  You can leave a comment by clicking at the top of this blog, just right of the date.

Discipleship Minute: Why Liars Don’t Need Grace

Almost every time I talk about grace some religious person asks me accusingly, “Isn’t this just letting people off easy?”

My answer to that is, “YES!”

“But it’s worse than you ever imagined,” I continue:

“It’s not letting them off easy; it’s letting them off for free!”

And then comes the probing question, “What if He didn’t let you off easy? What if you had to pay for your sins, every stinkin’ one of them?”

You see, if we’re honest we know that every one of us needs a rescue from our sin. And, we must admit that if the rescue wasn’t free, we’d have no hope.

But if we lie to ourselves and others, we’ll decide that our sins are the ones that don’t need payment, that our shortcomings and pathologies are the ones God must have decided were okay. And then, the grace He gives to others upsets us.

We’ll walk around thinking and saying, “We can’t believe that God actually gives grace to really bad sinners like those other people. We don’t need that kind of grace, cheap grace. Because we earn our grace, costly grace.”

But the Bible says that those who say this aren’t holier than the rest of us. They’re liars:

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Questions: Why do people begrudge the grace of God in Christ Jesus? What “sins of others” have you noticed that some Christians think is over-the-top and can’t be forgiven? I’d love to hear your opinions and comments.

Discipleship Minute: Why God Does Not Need Your Strength

Talk About Bodacious!

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told Peter and the disciples that Zechariah 13:7 referred to them personally, and that it was going to happen shortly:

“All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee” (Mark 14:27-28).

You’d think that should settle it, especially for Peter. The One he properly identified as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” told them that God’s Word would be fulfilled in their lives. He even offered an assuring promise of His coming resurrection and their soon regathering after the crisis.

But not for Peter. No, Peter had something for Jesus. He would prove to Him that Peter, not God was in control of this night. Peter, not God, would determine if Messiah should die. Peter, not God, would decide who would scatter and who wouldn’t.

“Hold on there Jesus, that’s not going to happen. Not on my watch. I will never forsake you. These other weaklings might fold, but not me. I’m Peter, and I don’t need God!”

Really, Peter?

You have to give Peter credit. He tried to deliver on his boast. When the soldiers came into the garden to arrest Jesus, Peter pulled out his little ceremonial sword and cut off one of the soldier’s ears! That was a suicide mission if I ever read about one. A sure-fire way to either die in place or at least go to jail with Jesus!

I imagine Jesus looking at Peter with one of those, “You have got to be kidding me, Peter. Or should I say, ‘Simon,’ your before-you-met-me name. You stand there with your little sword trying to change the mind of God, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the most climactic and decisive event in history?”

But the Scriptures!

After Jesus told Peter to put up his little sword and quit throwing his little “I don’t like what God is doing here” fit, the Lord compassionately healed the poor soldier’s ear. Then he turned to the arresting contingent and says this:

“But the Scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49).

Mark makes sure we get the point in the next verse: “Then they all forsook Him and fled.”

Mark rearranged the events of the night Jesus was betrayed to highlight the contrast between the way the disciples led by Peter dealt with the reality that Zechariah 13:7 was being fulfilled and the Lord Jesus’ reaction. The disciples responded by resisting, boasting, and living out of their strengths. Jesus dealt with that same reality by relying on His Father as He watched and prayed.

It was a tough lesson Peter learned that night: You can’t control God, and He doesn’t need you to fix the things you think are broken in your life. Put up your little sword, Simon. Jesus isn’t impressed. The Scriptures must be fulfilled.

Put Up Your Sword!

Maybe it’s time for you to put your little sword back in its sheath. Maybe you’ve been asking Jesus to look at your sword, and hoping He’ll do what you want. Maybe you’re facing your dark night of life in the same way Peter did—by protesting and relying on your own strength.

Before it ends badly for you like it did for Peter—in a heap of tears and repentance—try relying on Jesus, and watching, and praying.

The choice is yours; you can fix and fail or trust and triumph.

When I taught this from Mark 14:27-72 at Church of the Open Door, I summed it up with this sentence: God does not need your strength to take care of you, but you need to trust His strength to care for you.

Questions: What have you found helpful in increasing your dependence on Jesus? Also, I’d love to know what you think about this post!  You can leave a comment by clicking at the top of this blog, just right of the date.

Disciplemaking: We’ve already tried that! No we haven’t …

One of those guys who reads the books others have written and then tells everyone why they’re wrong “reviewed” my latest book, Reborn to Be Wild.

Hey, I’ve been a pastor long enough to develop some pretty thick skin, so I’m okay with someone not disagreeing with me or even attacking me.

What I take issue with is this man’s warped view of recent church history.

He maintains that the simple New Testament truths I say explained our revival, the Jesus Movement of the 60s, have all been tried. “It’s just the same old tired recipe–faith in Christ, make disciples, preach the Word, equip the saints, ask in My name.”

I admit that this recipe of simple truths from the New Testament have been around since the First Century.

What I won’t admit is that they’ve been tried much.

In fact, the last time they were embraced by thousands was about forty years ago.

During the Jesus Movement

It’s simply not true that New Testament Christianity is full of tried and failed truths. Our problem isn’t that we’ve worn out Jesus’ simple commands through overuse. It’s that we’ve worn out the church with our strategies and theories.

Could it be that in this age of frantically-seeking-leaders trying to start a movement of desperately-disappointed-followers that we all should take a deep breath and…

Try it Jesus’ way?

Question: Why do you feel most churches are not involved in disciple making? You can leave a comment by clicking at the top of this blog, just right of the date.

Discipleship Minute: Which Churches Have More of the Holy Spirit?

A young man who had been attending our church for a few weeks found me after the service one Sunday. “I’m sorry, Ed,” he said, “I love your teaching and this seems like a warm and missional community. But I’m looking for a more Spirit-filled church.”

When I asked him what he meant by a Spirit-filled church, he began to describe specific behaviors displayed in what most people consider more charismatic churches. I told him that if that is what he was looking for I could recommend some awesome more charismatic churches in our area, but he was surprised when I told him I didn’t think he understood the term Spirit-filled.

What is the definition of Spirit-filled?

… 

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Discipleship Minute: Why Listening to People Who Disagree With Your Theology is So Important

A few years ago, a Bible scholar who embraces a different theology than mine started attending our church. As our friendship deepened, and finding that we agreed on a lot more than we disagreed on, I asked him to help me lead in a way that was sensitive to Christians like him.

This surprised some of our friends who wondered if we were “drifting to the other side.” But we took the risk and decided that we were going to like one another, regardless of what our “camp” thought of us.

I’ve heard warnings over the years against associating with “those kinds of Christians.” One self-appointed spokesman for my side has even decided that people who think the way my friend thinks aren’t even true Christians.

I think I’d much rather hang out with my friend and talk about what we’re for–grace, mercy, Jesus, the church, love, and justice–than I would like to listen to this other guy pontificate about what “we’re” against.

My friend has invited me to teach some of his disciples about church leadership.

It was a blast!

I find myself looking forward to our next lunch to talk about the Bible. And I always try to seek him out when I’m teaching on a subject I know we disagree on. “Did I represent your side accurately? Was I fair? Do you feel valued in the debate?”

You’re probably thinking about some Christian friend or loved one right now who disagrees with you on the secondary issues of our faith. I encourage you to reach out to them. The last time I checked, it’s good for us to engage in healthy debate. If our views are worthy, then we should be able to discuss them with those who hold a different perspective.

In short, some really good things happen when we risk listening to fellow believers who disagree with us.

Question: When you think about relating to Christians who disagree with you, what scares you most?

Discipleship Minute: How Does Jesus Build Your Self-Esteem?

I Promise, God. I’ll Never Do It Again

I vividly remember riding my bike home after an adolescent sinfest and promising God I would never do it again, if He just wouldn’t send me to hell.

Of course I didn’t keep my promise. A few years and about a million broken promises later I figured, “What the heck? I mean if I’m going to hell anyway, the best plan is to have as much fun as possible along the way!”

But the guilt and shame just got worse.

Then I met Jesus in the Jesus Movement of the 60s and 70s. As I grew in my awareness of His perfect work on the Cross and His love, mercy, and grace, my self-esteem grew. Not because I had made myself better, but because He had remade me into a better person.

Authentic self-esteem doesn’t come from within. It comes from Someone else.

His name is Jesus.

And when He tells you He loves you so much that He died for you, that He delights in you, and that you are not who you used to be, you know that you have been delivered from the religious mythologies that tell you to “get your life together for God.”

Question: Are you tired of trying to “get your life together for God?”

If so, here are a few blogs to set you free: Grace!

Discipleship Minute: Are There Two Classes of Christians?

Before you answer that question with a protest, “What do you mean two classes of Christians, we’re all one in Christ?” … read 1 Corinthians 2:15-3:4 and Hebrews 5:13-14.

These passages introduce us to two types of Christians—babies and grownups. Notice that the difference has little to do with how long you’ve been a believer.

Paul’s Scolding: Grow Up!

Paul’s fed up with the infantile Corinthians. After all this time and with all these spiritual benefits, they should be chewing on the deep truths of God’s Word. Instead, they can only suck down the same baby formulas that sustained them at birth.

Paul’s Contrast: Babes and Grownups

Were you able to pick out the differences between grownup Christians and babies? Babes are so dominated by fleshly desires that they have trouble thinking biblically.

They’re unstable and easily discouraged.

Their immaturity is most apparent in their divisive behavior: Babes love a fight and have to have their way in a church.

Grownups are dominated by the Spirit’s desires so that they develop discernment, based on God’s Word.

Their confidence in God is unshakeable.

They demonstrate their maturity in a church by giving up their rights.

Look Around You

Does this change the way you view the people in your church? It should. It’s not how long someone has been a Christian or how many generations they have been at a church that makes him or her someone you should listen to. It’s how grown up they are in Christ.

And the surest indicator of a baby heart is a demanding spirit. When we let the babies have their way, our churches look more like chaotic playgrounds without adult supervision. The bullies rule and he or she who screams loudest gets the most attention.

Until a church stands up to the bullies and tells the screaming toddlers to shut up, it’s an unsafe climate for spiritual growth.

Look In the Mirror

How about you? Do you need to grow up? Before you answer no. Ask someone close to you—your spouse, your children, your friends. The choice is clear. We can either stay on the bottle of self-centered behaviors or start chewing on the solid food of selfless, Christlike, Spirit-powered, Bible informed truths of life.

So what will it be? Grow or no?

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:13-14).

Discipleship Moment: How to Serve Jesus, Even When You’re Envious of Others

Two Guys

There’s this guy I’ve known for decades. He started his Christian life the same way I did. Like me, he was an angry 60s rebel who met Jesus on the streets during the Jesus Movement revival. Like me, some great men and women of the faith took an interest in his life and taught him how to walk with Jesus. Like me, he felt God’s call to serve Christ in vocational ministry. Like me, he is sold out to the Lord Jesus as a devoted disciple.

Unlike me, he went straight into ministry after his studies at a university. Unlike me, he did not go to seminary and never studied the Bible under esteemed theologians and professors of Bible. Unlike me, his work for Christ has never centered in a local church, but has been more regional, nationwide, and even global.

Though we are both convinced that we are walking the path the Lord Jesus is leading us on, our convictions about how to actually reach the world for Him could not be more different!

• He’s into the big splash, the hottest trends, and the latest evango-hero personality. I hate that stuff.

• He devotes a lot of his life doing “think tank” stuff around a table with other “think-tank guys,” strategizing and planning. I think that’s a waste of time.

• He’s really interested in politics and current trends in America, and how the church can do something big to turn our culture around. I think that politics too often distracts Christians from the only real hope for America—authentic churches that make disciples that transform their families, neighborhoods, and communities.

• He’s a top-down authoritarian leader; I’m a team-processing communal leader.

• He’s the boss; I’m the player-coach.

• He thinks I’m too vulnerable to my team; I think he lives in a dangerous place.

We disagree on a lot of theological issues too!

• He actually practices some gifts of the Holy Spirit I’m not sure are still around.

• He’s not sure Christians can’t lose their salvation; I’m absolutely convinced that eternal life is a free gift that can never be lost.

Oh yeah, he makes a lot more money than I do, doesn’t suffer from a chronic disease, flies away to exotic getaways with his wife several times a year, and his ministry receives huge gifts from extremely wealthy people.

Not that I’m comparing, competing, or envious.

Yes I am.

Don’t tell me you don’t struggle with this too.

Two Gardens

Is there a person like this in your life?

You can’t understand why God gives them opportunities when they disagree with you about so many things. You can’t understand why God doesn’t straighten out their theology when it’s so obvious to you that they are so wrong. And you really have a problem with God giving them such an easy life when you have to struggle like you do.

Here’s what I’ve decided about this guy. You may want to decide the same about the Christian in your life you’re either competing with, comparing yourself to, or envious of.

He has his garden to tend for God, and that is between him and Jesus.

My garden is Church of the Open Door. Jesus wants me to be the best under-gardener I can be in the garden He gave me to tend.

When Peter looked up from the garden of his life and challenged the Lord Jesus about the “easy garden” He gave to John, the Lord told him what we all need to hear:

“If I will that he remain (in a life that doesn’t involve as much suffering as yours) till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” –John 21:22

Question: What strategy helps you when you’re feeling jealous of other people’s gardens?