Name Who He is in Humbleness

O Lord our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day: Defend us in the same with thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” From ‘The Book of Common Prayer and The Scottish Liturgy

I am not part of the Episcopal Church in England, but I did notice in the prayers presented in the book noted above often begin with addressing God in wonderful ways which is something all of us need to do in our prayer lives.

You and I have the privilege and honor of speaking to the God of the Universe who holds all worlds in His hand and Who makes His will done with a thought. He is beyond us and as we pray to Him you and I should remember that.

We need to properly say who God is in our prayers so that we properly put ourselves under Him as we pray. We never want to place ourselves above God in our prayers and treat Him like a vending machine or Santa Claus. God need not check off some list for us and get a gold star for being a good God. We humbly and weakly come to Him.

Even as I say that, we do not need to be flowery and attempt to be impressive to ourselves or others as we pray for that is a huge temptation as we think about this.

Proverbs 10:19 (NIV1984), “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

Matthew 6:7 (NIV1984), “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

We need to properly say who God is in our prayers to properly acknowledge Him and not to make ourselves feel or appear more spiritual. At the beginning of the prayer above, I love that the prayer calls Him ‘Lord,’ ‘Heavenly Father,’ ‘Almighty,’ ‘Everlasting,’ and shares that we know He is in charge of our day. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. This is properly addressing our God who is far beyond anything we can think or imagine. We should do this not to sound better, but to address God properly. It is a humble heart issue.

God our Father Who Provides for all my needs…

Abba Father Who loves me unconditionally…

In the Name of Jesus my Savior, I come to you Almighty God Who sent Your Son…

Powerful God Who created all things and holds my life in His hand…

May we properly come to our God as we pray and rightly name who He is that our prayers would be full of humbleness. This is a place to start as we make sure humbleness is thread throughout our relationship with God… humbleness certainly must be part of prayer.

Restrain our Imagination and Move On

“Hence S. Basil also says: ‘But if through the weakness of sinful nature you cannot pray with attention, restrain your imagination as far as you can, and God will pardon you, inasmuch as it is not from negligence but from weakness that you are unable to occupy yourself with Him as you should.'” -Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) in ‘On Prayer and The Contemplative Life’

Here is the common setting:

You are praying and praising God for His blessings and then you are wondering what is for dinner.

You are confessing your sin to our Heavenly Father who forgives us by the precious blood of Christ and you decide to check Facebook.

You are thanking God for His constant watch-care over your life and you wonder if you or your spouse made the appointment to have the car looked at by the mechanic.

You are praying for your aunt who is ill and remember you have a doctor’s appointment next week and have not sent in the new patient paperwork yet.

No, it is not just you, but is a condition common to every human being who has dedicated themselves to prayer. It was common for Thomas Aquinas and his cohorts in the 1200s and it is common to us these days. The distractions and thoughts might be slightly different, but the result is the same… one moment we are focused and praying and the next moment we are not.

There is a key thought and a practical suggestion we can adopt to further our focus in praying to our Heavenly Father.

KEY THOUGHT

The key thought is that we need to understand that God is not mad with us when we wander in our wonderings as we pray. Aquinas rightly points out that we are weak. We have weaknesses and one of those areas of weakness are the thoughts we entertain. We have to acknowledge it and move on.

The Bible explains that our thought life can be a hindrance for us:

Leviticus 5:4 (NIV1984), “Or if a person thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything, whether good or evil– in any matter one might carelessly swear about– even though he is unaware of it, in any case when he learns of it he will be guilty.”

Psalm 13:2a (NIV1984): “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?”

Matthew 5:28 (NIV1984), “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

2 Corinthians 10:5b (NIV1984), “and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

There are of course many other verses, but these will suffice for now to highlight for us that our thought life is a weak area that temptation can sneak in and hinder us in sin. It does not even have to be full blown sin, but just a hindrance.

When you and I are praying and we find that our mind has wandered away from adoring our God in praise… pause and briefly confess… and refocus back into prayer.

When you and I are praying and we find our mind is being peppered with thoughts of the coming day or the happenings of the previous day… pause and briefly confess… and refocus back on confessing our sins or thanking God for His awesomeness.

When you and I are praying and we find our mind is still at recess on the monkey-bars… pause and briefly confess… and refocus on our intercession for those around us we care about.

That’s it: Acknowledge our digression and move on in prayer.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION

It may be helpful to have a piece of paper or notepad with you whilst you pray. You might think… oh yes… have a prayer journal and this will help keep your focus. You certainly can do that, but that is not my practical suggestion.

My practical suggestion is to have a notepad for the other thoughts that creep in. As you are praying and remember you need to call the doctor, jot down ‘call Dr. Green’ and then get back to prayer. As you pray, jot down ‘need laundry soap’ and then get back to prayer. As you pray, jot down ‘analyze the projections for the Anderson account’ and then get back to prayer. The fear of forgetting life issues or needs will diminish because after prayer; you have not lost any thoughts for they are right there on a notepad.

That’s it: Acknowledge our digressions and wanderings as we pray and move on in prayer keeping our focus on God.

Abiding in Prayer

It is only by a full surrender to the life of abiding, by the yielding to the fullness of the Spirit’s leading and quickening, that the prayer-life can be restored to a truly healthy state.” – Andrew Murray (1828-1917), ‘The Ministry of Intercession A Plea for More Prayer’

All of us who are believers in Jesus Christ should be prayerful people. We are trapped in our physical selves for a time while our gracious guiding God chooses primarily to be spiritual. Communication between us is prayer and we would like our communication with our Heavenly Father to be effective, deep, and powerful.

Andrew Murray addresses the ‘healthy state’ of prayer in the chapter in the book referenced above, and gives us a simple yet complex key for opening that door.

The key is abiding in Christ.

John 15:4-10 (KJV): “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. {without me: or, severed from me} 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”

ASV, ESV, NASB = “Abide”

AMP = “Dwell”

NIV = “Remain”

We must understand that the effectiveness and power of our prayer life is directly connected to how well our relationship with God through Christ is going. If we are distant from God, then our prayer life will be puny. If we are dwelling richly with God, then our prayer life will be powerful.

Now keep in mind that a ‘healthy state’ of prayer is not ‘I pray and God does what I want.’ The God of the Universe is no vending machine that you shake and let loose a bag of M&Ms. The major power of prayer is that you and I come in line with God’s purposes and His will… He changes us through prayer. We are able to face the day because He has filled our heart with His presence.

Healthy prayer comes from a life surrendered to God’s will, which we discover in His Word and confirmed in prayer.

Healthy prayer comes from abiding in Jesus through the power of the Spirit to live in holiness where we can hear God’s voice.

Healthy prayer comes from remaining in Christ and listening to the Word of the Lord to us… we don’t just jabber on, but we listen.

Do you feel as if your prayers are weak and bounce off the ceiling? Do you feel like God is not listening to your prayer? Do you struggle to even find time to pray?

The answer is to lean in to abiding in Christ. Read the Word regularly. Listen to the Bible on a Bible app as you go to sleep. Turn on Christian radio as you drive. Go to church. Fast. Tithe. Give away a prized possession. Give a couple of bucks to the homeless you keep driving by. Volunteer to serve at church and outside of church. Call that person you have been unwilling to forgive. Lean into living in Christ and living out the faith you profess and abide in Christ. You will then find prayer in a healthier state.

Titus 3 (Part 2): I Insist

Titus 3:4-8 

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.” (ESV) 

I would like to insist these truths to you so that you would be careful to devote yourself fully to the Lord.  I would like to insist these thoughts to you so that you have an excellent spiritual life and have blessing from the Lord.  I would like to insist from the Scriptures everything Paul is telling Titus. 

Eternal life came to each of us because of God’s love.  In this passage, it is called loving kindness.  God’s love is not just a feeling, but rather also an action.  He sent Jesus as an extension of His love.  He did not send Him because of good things we had done… quite the opposite.  God sent Jesus because we are sinful and we need mercy.  I insist that you know God loves you. 

Eternal life is poured out to us only in Jesus Christ.  He is our Savior.  He is the plan of God that was sent to give us complete forgiveness of sins.  That’s what the word “justification” means that Paul writes to Titus.  We are completely forgiven in Jesus Christ because of His death, burial, and resurrection.  I insist that you know that complete forgiveness is given through Jesus Christ our Savior. 

Eternal life is an inheritance given to us.  We are heirs of the promises that God has made come true in Jesus Christ.  Eternal life is one part of our inheritance.  It is ours.  It is kept safe.  Our souls are given life in Christ because of His payment for our sins.  I insist that you know that Heaven is in store for anyone who believes in Jesus Christ. 

I insist on these things for the same reason that the Apostle Paul insisted upon them.  Knowing these truths in Christ should motivate us to be moral and good and holy and righteous.  We have been given a great gift and we are called to live life forwards towards that gift.  We can’t earn it, but we can sure act thankful in our lives for it by going good and sharing Christ with others. 

I insist. 

TMB 

Titus 3 (Part 1): Good Works in His Order

Titus 3:1-15 

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,  2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.  3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared,  5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,  6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,  7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.  9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.  10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.  11 You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.  12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there.  13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need.  14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.  15 Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.   

Titus is a book in the New Testament written by the Apostle Paul to one of his dear followers and fellow workers named Titus.  Titus’ job at the time the letter was written was to strengthen the churches and believers on the island of Crete.  Crete was not known for being a Mediterranean island paradise, but was known as a home of “liars, evil brutes, and lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12).  And that was just how they described themselves!  It was into this interesting field of people that Paul had sent Titus and was now sending a letter. 

OUR IDENTITY IN HIS ORDER 

Paul instructs Titus to “remind the people” in verse 1 of some important facts about their character and their identity.  As Christians, they are to do their best to be different than they once were when they were outside of God’s will.  He makes quite a distinction between the characteristics of those outside of the family of God and His order and those who have accepted the gift of being a part of it.  Just note the list of words he uses to describe those outside of Christ: 

Foolish 

Disobedient 

Deceived by passions and pleasures 

Enslaved by passion and pleasures 

Full of malice and envy and hate 

The description that Paul gives to Titus about non-Christians would have made total sense to him.  Remember, Titus was ministering to people whose claim to fame was being rough and uncultured and all-around despicable.  Paul tells Titus that no one is exempt from having those characteristics.  We all have temptation to be that way.   

Verses 4-5 tell us that something happened to change all that and to change our identity.  Paul says very specifically, “kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.”  Jesus Christ made all the difference.  Jesus always makes the difference.  The picture we get is that Jesus is the Divine Philanthropist who came and shared His love with us and we did not deserve anything.  Paul reflects that once Jesus saved us that our characteristics and identity changed from being foolish, disobedient, and all-around “Cretans” to being: 

Good 

Considerate 

Peaceable 

Humble 

It is Jesus that has made the difference and has washed us new.  Our identity is now rooted in Him.  He has saved us and we are His.  We are people who are committed to rebirth.  That is who we are.  We are people who are committed to renewal.  That is who we are.  We are people who are considerate of others and seek the best for those around us.  We want to be humble and point people to God as the result of what we say and do.  That is who we are. 

ORDERS FOR US WITHIN HIS ORDER 

Paul tells Titus and us right away in verse 8 that “those who have trusted in God” (that is us) must be “careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”  Paul not only identifies who is part of God’s Kingdom, but shares with us some actions.  He gives the directions for action and inaction.  Avoid controversies.  Avoid arguments.  Avoid useless things.  Avoid divisive people.  Those are our marching orders.  We are to devote ourselves to what is good and of benefit to those around us.  3 key words jump out at me: 

DEVOTE 

The first is Devote.  The word “devote” is only used 11x in the Old and New Testaments and 2 of those occurrences are in Titus.  In 1 Chronicles (22:19), 2 Chronicles (31:4), Job (11:13), Jeremiah (30:21), and Micah (4:13) all have the object of devotion as God.  1 Corinthians (7:5) and Colossians (4:2) have as the object prayer.  1 Timothy (4:13) admonishes others to devote themselves to God’s Word.  And the two uses in Titus 3 tell us to devote ourselves to doing good.  Based on how the word “devote” is used elsewhere in Scripture, it would seem it is a word that denotes a high calling for a worthy object.  “Doing good” is a worthy object of our devotion. 

EXCELLENT 

The second is Excellent.  I would hope that we as a Body of Believers are committed to doing things with excellence.  Everything we do is done for the glory of God and should be done with excellence.  Excellence is our goal.  Excellence is the bar that is set for us.  Paul says elsewhere in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things.”  Paul also describes the way of love in 1 Corinthians 13 as the “most excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31).  I would hope that our orders for excellence would describe for us the amount of effort we should put forth and the criteria by which we judge ourselves. 

PROFITABLE 

The third is Profitable.  The sense we get is that devotion and excellence in life as we live out God’s order brings about advantage for others.  It allows others to benefit from our efforts.  In everything we do, we should ask “Who will profit from this?”  That is a good guiding question when spending time, energy, money, spiritual gifts, and effort to do good.  We should not do things to benefit ourselves and to give an advantage to ourselves, but the verse clearly says “profitable for everyone” (verse 8).  The other sense I think we get from this word and from the other two key words is that believers in Jesus Christ should be taking the lead when it comes to good works.  The end result is that when you hear about a family being provided for in the community… a church should be behind it.  The end result is that when you hear about a church running a program or doing something… that you know it will be done very well.  The end result is that people in need benefit no matter who they are or what they look like or what the cost… but that God gets the glory and people are provided for. 

OUR OVERALL GOAL 

The goal of anything is what must be accomplished.  It is the end.  It is the completion of the task.  I could make this more complicated than it needs to be, but the goal for us as Christians, of those who are committed to Him, is that good is produced from our words and actions.   Paul tells Titus in verse 14 “our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good.”  The goal is devotion to good for the provision of daily lives and productive lives.  The goal is that we wage war against the evil and oppression in the world so that good is produced. 

TMB 

Titus 2: The Contrast of Self Over Divine Order

Titus 2:1-15   

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.  2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.  3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children,  5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.  6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.  7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness  8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.  9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them,  10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.  11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,  13 while we wait for the blessed hope– the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,  14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. 

The Apostle Paul tells us that self-gain is the goal of many people. We need to recognize that this goal is for those who do not know God and those that claim to know God. He especially points out those in the Church who demand works for membership when Jesus said “deny yourself and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Jesus does not say to follow Him to build up ourselves. 

Titus 2:10 explains why each of the groups he identifies (men, women, children, husbands, wives, slaves) must focus on denying self as a basic premise of the Gospel. Titus 2:10 shares with us that holy behavior reveals the beauty of the teaching of Christ. We must also see that our behavior speaks to what or who we worship. By our actions do we worship self? By our actions do we worship God? There is no middle ground really.

Titus 2:11 shares with us, like a slap in the face, that grace trains us. Grace teaches us NOT to sin. Most of us have the idea that grace affords us TO sin. It is worthy of highlighting here in the letter to Titus that grace says NO TO SIN. This fits with the understanding that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ frees us from slavery to sin and does not enable us to sin.

Therefore, we must embrace grace in a corrective manner. When we don’t embrace Grace in a corrective manner, we place ourselves in unhealthy relational patterns that will have a callousing effect on our heart. The most unhealthy our heart can get is hardened not to seek God.

Though our roles differ in our lives as does our gender or our relationships, our behavior generally should match the faith we profess and we should be a people of good works. We do good to follow the Redeemer. In following the Redeemer, we participate in revealing the Redeemer. In revealing the Redeemer, we draw others to Christ’s Nature as His representative.

It all starts by seeking to partake in Christ nature by denying self rather than promoting self.

BMD

4 Days in the Hospital

I started having stomach pain in the afternoon of October 14, 2018. I thought it was just stress. It was. The stress of the coming days aided the formation of a dime-sized kidney stone that needed to be blasted to pieces 6 months later. I had the Shock Wave Lithotripsy this past week and it could have went better. The kidney stone was blasted into three and all three pieces got stuck and I needed another procedure.

4 Days in the Hospital.

I had a shared hospital room with 1 person the first 3 days and another for the last day. The fellow the last day was considerate and hurting himself. The fellow who was in the room with me the other 75% of the time was some kind of piece of work. Alex was a piece of something.

The first night I got to the room the ‘gentleman’ blasted rap music from some device from 3:00am-4:30am or so. It wasn’t even good rap music, just cursing strung together incoherently. Then around 5am he got on another device to scream and yell playing a Fortnight-type game with friends while eating the loudest chips he could find. Once his lady companion left (sister or friend) after bringing him McDonald’s (because his card was at his mother’s house), he then called four different women throughout the day trying to move in with them.

You see… Alex… this stellar human being, was in the hospital to avoid going to jail. He had just gotten out of jail and had a court date the day I arrived in the hospital. He told one of his friends on the phone during the day that being in the hospital was a legitimate reason to miss court. Had he gone to court that day, he would have been booked to jail again. The poor guy had a crohn’s flare up right when he was supposed to be in court.

The next night I was awakened just before midnight to three screaming children asking to go home, Finding Dory blasting on the TV, more music streaming from a device, and more video games being played with volume to cover over the movie. There were 2 other adults on that side of the room plus my considerate lovely roommate. A nurse came in about 12:15am and asked how I was doing. I said no words, but pointed to the other side of the room (the sheet/curtain was drawn between us). She left. She came back 5 minutes later and asked the noise pollution brigade to leave. She gave them 30 minutes to leave. They took the whole 30 minutes making sure the kids finished up all the jello and made a plan to punch out any hospital staff on the way out should they be rude. He escorted them all from the room and he left the movie running. Thanks Alex.

He came back an hour later and then spent the next 4 hours on the phone with Jazmine who was the mother of his daughters. He berated her, verbally assaulted her, tried to isolate her from friends and family, and was a passive-aggressive master. He should write a book on how to manipulate women. Jazmine was the recipient of the domestic violence that landed him in jail. From his side of the conversation, that poor girl wanted nothing to do with him and told him so on multiple occasions. For 4 hours he argued, abused, questioned, hung-up and recalled that poor girl. They finished speaking around 5am and he not only had her agreeing to marry him, but had moved back in with her, and had a ride to work. At 5am, he got off the phone. You know why right? Yep, back on Fortnight yelling and screaming until 7am.

Alex is an absolute piece of crap human being who deserves to be locked up in jail for beating his girlfriend. He doesn’t deserve to have his mother take him in. He deserves to be fired. It sounds like he deserved to have his children taken from him. He was gone after I got back from my second procedure.

I have run those 4 days over in my head since I was released and the same question just runs in my head over and over and over and over.

Why didn’t I share the Gospel with him?

TMB

Titus 1: Hard Thoughts About Eldership

Titus 1:1-16 

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness–  2 a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time,  3 and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,  4 To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.  5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.  6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.  7 Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless– not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.  8 Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.  9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.  10 For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group.  11 They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach– and that for the sake of dishonest gain.  12 Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”  13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith  14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.  15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.  16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. 

Who do you think you are? 

The Apostle Paul relates to God as His slave (doulos = slave, servant).  Paul sees his submission to the will of Savior God as servanthood. His self-titled status is followed with the statement of who and what he is… an apostle in Christ Jesus.  Paul’s purpose is to further the faith of the Savior’s chosen.  

Keep in mind that Paul’s proclamation is of one who has yielded his soul to another’s will, namely God.  The status of “Slave of God” is then Paul’s attitude of action toward others and also the example of appropriate Christian leadership.  Notice there is no mention of making a name for himself.  He only points to self in terms of slave status and doing what Jesus has commanded.  He’s been sent by Jesus (which is what “apostle” means). 

Standards and Qualifications for Eldership Matter 

I find all but one qualification for eldership straight forward.  One is not clear: “the husband of one wife.”  I want to share how I have thought this through as it may help you in considering what it means. 

Does it mean married only once? 

Does it mean not presently married to more than one woman? 

Does it mean never married to more than one woman at a time? 

Opinion One:  

Several thoughts were shared in another blog post.  As we think about verse 6, why the particular phrasing “husband of one wife?”  Let’s take notice that Biblically speaking divorce is more shameful than polygamy, however, neither “divorce” nor “polygamy” is the Biblical standard.  God’s ordained example in Genesis of Adam and Eve give us God’s standard and intent for marriage.  Divorce is viewed as worse than polygamy.  That strikes most of us a bit odd in our modern culture.   

Think about it:  People back then might often come to the Lord with more than one wife as part of their family.  They are a polygamist, but found the Lord as Savior.  What are they to do?  It is not very Christian to just pick your first wife and put the other(s) out to fend for themselves.   If we look to how the Early Church Fathers dealt with such issues, we will find they struggle with it.  Laws changed because there is no real good solution.  We must stick with God’s established intent of one mate as the aim.  Much heartache can be avoided when we follow His order.  The Apostle Paul sets such a standard in his day for elders for the church in future generations.  

There is room to show grace and correct wrong thinking.  There is room to show grace and correct relationships that don’t reflect God intent. We all come to the Lord with baggage and commitments we must keep after being forgiven.  Some of those commitments (or baggage) may exclude us from roles in the church body and well as draw us into roles that we may have earlier neglected.  We are to turn from the wrong lifestyle, but not responsibility for loving those with whom we are in a relationship.   

Elders must fit the dictates of Scripture because whatever the case may be… those obligations we accumulate though our life choices can never be a reason to change God’s standard. Elders must fit the dictates of Scripture. This verse says “the husband of one wife” and has a standard meaning.  It is the same meaning as in 1 Timothy 5:9 where Paul states that a “true widow” is to be the wife of one husband.  The verse means “married once,” but with the inclusion of all the other concerns because of how the verse is stated. 

A weakness I see in the above opinion is for windows who remarry. I’m not too sure how remarriage fits with God’s intent and I don’t think it does.  It is of course not Biblically wrong to remarry.  It is just instead not the circumstance of the most evident example that the church can present.  The idea being presented here is the concept of Christ and His Bride (the Church) in an everlasting covenant.  I say let the husband of one woman mean “one” because these are qualifications about what we can and can’t do in a family as we reflect Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Opinion Two: 

The phase in verse 6 about “husband of one wife” means faithful to one woman or maybe better put… “a one woman man.”  This is a possible translation and covers the phase in terms of addressing character.  If the man’s character is all Paul is concerned with, then this idea works well.  

However, there are some weaknesses with this view such as divorce and remarriage after conversion to Christianity.  Such a man would not be beyond reproach.  The idea is that many people have good character, but character alone does not qualify for any and every role in the Church.  One needs to know how to cultivate relational skills that meet the demand.  One can have character without skill or knowledge and skills without character.  The elder needs both. 

Also, there can arise a weakness in the standard if “faithful to one woman” means “one woman at a time.”  This brings a concept to text rather than a concept exegeted from the text.  We all can agree that nobody is perfect so it can mean this explanation.  The fact that this is a possibility shows the need for an enduring relational pattern demonstrated within the Church from which others can learn.  

The pattern should reflect Christ and His Bride.  It should not only be present character that is important, but a proven-lasting-fruitful family with children that also follow the Lord.  The person with a proven-lasting-fruitful-faithful family reflects the know-how and skills of raising people in the Lord. The person with a proven-lasting-fruitful-faithful family reveals character in demand for the role of elder.  Such a standard may also fit the deacon, but an elder must have the track record that people can see with no objections.

Therefore, again, I say let the husband of one woman mean “one.”  Such an opinion covers all the possible opinions to “being beyond reproach.”  It is a very high standard, but if the goal is to best reflect Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… it is a needed standard in the human family and the Church family (which parallel each other).  It would make sense to aim for God’s design and recognize God is over what we are not.  Our weakness is overcome by a high standard for God’s people and the roles we carry in reflecting Him. 

BMD 

1 TIMOTHY 6: CONTENTMENT IN GOD’S ORDER

1 Timothy 6:6-12

But godliness with contentment is great gain.  7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.  9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.  12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

As we think about these verses contained in 1 Timothy 6, one of the first words I noticed when I was reading was the word “contentment.”  “Contentment” means “a state of happiness and satisfaction.”  The Apostle Paul is recommending that we cultivate contentment in our lives because we are godly people living in submission in the midst of the order God has set up.  We are people who pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.  We have those things as our core values.

I want you to notice if you will the context of the word “contentment.”  We are not talking about relationships or physical looks or life circumstances (which certainly does apply as we look back on 1 Timothy 1-5 and other Scriptures), but rather we are talking about finances.  The sense we get from these verses is that the Christian way of living is not as its primary goal going after money and amassing wealth.  That certainly does not mean that money cannot be saved or earned or business deals struck which make us money.  Loving money crowds out the contentment Paul is talking about.  Paul says that wanting more and more money are “foolish desires” and lead only to “ruin.”  Desiring more and more money may force us to do things we would not normally do.  Paul calls that “piercing ourselves with many griefs.”  Paul specifically in these verses says that contentment with financial things is a must for the believer.

The Bible mentions contentment with money a few times in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Two passages from the New Testament caught my eye.

Philippians 4:11-13 tells us, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Please notice that the often quoted Philippians 4:13 about us doing all things through Christ has a context of being content with money and physical material things.  Paul found that the only way he could be content with the financial circumstances was through his faith in Christ.

Hebrews 13:5-6 reminds us, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”  So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

Again, we are shown in the Bible that the only way to be content with financial circumstances is to rely on God through it.  God brings us confidence in these matters.  God brings us strength.

As we think about the verses in 1 Timothy 6, one of the first words I noticed when I was reading was the word “contentment.”  That also made me think about the opposite of being content which is discontent.  “Discontent” is a lack of satisfaction.  Synonyms are “disgruntled,” “unhappy,” and “resentment.”  We know the feeling of discontentment when we feel it.  As I read over these verses, discontentment fleshed out would be the opposite of what Paul says:

Verse 6: Discontentment is ungodly

Verse 7: Discontentment is trying to amass wealth even after death

Verse 8: Discontentment is wanting more than you need

Verse 9: Discontentment is a trap that leads to ruin.

Verse 10: Discontentment is the love of money.

Verse 10: Discontentment can lead you away from God.

There are plenty of stories in the Bible where the feeling of being discontent or restlessness lead to something awful.  Let’s just take a look at the book of Genesis.  The first book of the Bible is full of the lives of many people.  Some of them dealt with the feeling of being discontent.

Even from the very beginning in Eden, Adam and Eve had a perfect place to live (Genesis 3).  Satan tempted Adam and Eve to be discontent with what God had given them.  He pressed on them the idea that they needed to be more than what God had already created.  Their eyes were opened to more and it caused them to sin.

Abraham and Lot became so wealthy that they had to separate their flocks and herds so the land could support them (Genesis 13).  Abraham was content to live as God instructed.  Lot was not content to live as God instructed.  He chose to move near the town of Sodom.  Soon after that, he camped near it.  Then he was inside living as one of them.  He ended up getting captured one time and Abraham had to rescue him.  Then, he lost his wife when God destroyed the evil city.

Jacob and Esau are the twin sons of Isaac (Genesis 25).  The younger son schemed and tricked his brother and father into inheritance and blessing because he wasn’t content with anything.  His mother also seemed to feed his feeling of discontentment.  He was not content with what he had and lied and cheated his way to blessing.  Then later he himself was almost cheated out of the woman he loved.

So how do we turn our back on the feeling of being discontent and cultivate a great sense of contentment in our lives?  I believe we find the answers in verses 11 and 12 of 1 Timothy 6.  You see, I think it is human nature, and by that I mean our default as people, not to be content.  We err on the side of discontent.  God knows this is our sinful nature at work.

Therefore, God instructs us when it comes to money and material things what our aims should be.  Our aims for material things should not be more and more.  Our aims for material things should not be the latest and greatest.

What builds contentment in our lives?  The Apostle Paul lists them in verse 11: Righteousness, Godliness, Faith, Love, Endurance, Gentleness

When we keep our eyes and our heart set for these types of things in our lives, then we have weapons against the wave of discontentment that is sure to wash over us.  You see, when we are self-absorbed, committed to sin, faithless, hard-hearted, quick to quit, and quite rough around the edges, discontent flourishes inside our hearts and directs our actions.

Is this easy?  Paul in verse 12 tells us absolutely not.  In fact, he encourages us in verse 12 to “Fight the good fight of the faith.”  It is a fight to keep ourselves righteousness, godly, faithful, loving, full of endurance, and gentle.  He uses the word “fight.”  This is an uphill battle for us, but one worth taking on.  This is a long obstacle course challenge that is worth our time and effort.  Cultivating contentment will keep us from ruining our lives and making very poor decisions.

Contentment really is a spiritual issue and is not an amount-of-money issue. God is always there and never changes and informs us how we can be content with our finances.  Financial contentment has less to do with money and more to do with our attitudes, belief systems, and decisions. Financial contentment brings peace of mind. Peace of mind and contentment comes from committing ourselves to righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

TMB