Follow the Pattern

Recently the Kentucky Derby took place, and I am always impressed by the beauty and power of those thoroughbreds as they race. The grace of movement and the inevitable marks in the dirt left by the hooves of the horses is a site to behold. The hoof prints of the horses clearly show the path they had taken.

Paul says something interesting in 2 Timothy 1:13 which reminded me of those horses when he said,

“Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.”

What struck me is the meaning of the word “pattern.” Wuest explains the significance of this word when he states that it,

“Means “a blow”; it was used of the beat of horses’ hoofs; it meant the impression left by a seal, the effect of a blow or pressure, an engraved mark, a pattern, a model. The word thus speaks of a pattern by which one can maintain the sameness of a thing. Paul exhorts Timothy to hold fast the pattern of the sound words committed to him.”

Paul had left a clear mark, pattern and model for Timothy to follow through his teaching. But it is also important to note that this pattern like the path of a horses hoof prints is shaped by the faith and love we have in Jesus Christ. Our faith is not a burden or legalism. It is a life of following the Master who loves us. It is a faith based upon a personal and loving relationship with Jesus.

Another thing that stood out to me is that Paul tells Timothy the model or pattern of his teaching is “wholesome.” The word means “healthy.” All other models of following Jesus are unhealthy if they do not match the model that Paul left.

Father, I want to thank you for the clear pattern and model of faith that Paul has laid out for us through the inspiration of your Spirit. This mark that I am to follow is healthy and based upon a love relationship with Jesus. May you enable me to follow this pattern and express love as Jesus expects. This is the way you designed the Faith to be lived, and it is healthy for me!

Following Jesus with you,

Advertisements

The Love of Money

The Bible is such a practical book and addresses all of life. God, in his wisdom, has given us a guidebook for understanding how to live well. One of the areas the Bible is not afraid to discuss is money. We see Paul’s counsel to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 which says,

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

Money is not bad, but the love of money is a serious problem.  As I was reading this passage, I see a progression here that could be summarized as follows:

Desire to be rich  ->  falling into temptation  ->  the love of money  ->  evil deeds  -> wandering away from the faith  -> causing yourself pain

Notice how the ESV Study Bible summarizes this text,

“What is condemned here is the desire to be rich, not material things per se when rightly used for the glory of God. The desire to be rich leads one to fall into temptation. This, in turn, results in the love of money, which Paul identifies as a root of all kinds of evils (v. 10). The connection between false teaching and the desire to be rich has been a problem from the church’s very beginning. .The warning is not simply that “love of money” is harmful but that this has led some to deny the faith, showing themselves to be unbelievers (cf. 1:19).”

What is the solution for our desire for wealth? The previous verses tell us. Paul said,

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

Contentment is the answer to the love of money. We should be thankful and grateful for all that God has given us (see James 1:17). We should appreciate what we have rather than crave what we don’t. Paul tells us that this contentment should be the fruit of realizing how temporary riches are. We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it either. Our focus needs to be on our eternal inheritance and God’s rewards for faithfulness.

Father, thank you again for how practical you Word is to us. Help me to keep the perspective of the temporary nature of earthly wealth, power and prestige. May you enable me to live a life of faithfulness focused on you and the eternal rewards of such effort.

Following Jesus with you,

Good and Bad News

When I was reading 1 Timothy 5:24-25, I was reminded of the old saying, “I have some good news and some bad news. What do you want to hear first?”

Notice what Paul tells Timothy,

“Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later. In the same way, the good deeds of some people are obvious. And the good deeds done in secret will someday come to light.

The “bad news” is in verse 24. Some sins that we and others commit are very visible to all. But, some transgressions are not apparent and can seem as though they will never have consequences. This verse though tells us that even the hidden sins will one day be revealed.

This truth is important for believers to remember and should put a healthy dose of fear in all of us. Sin in the life of a believer may appear to have no consequences in the present if they remain hidden, but these actions will become obvious at the Bema Judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10) where all believers must give an account of their deeds to Christ. The Bema Judgement is not to determine if a person is saved, but to determine rewards or lack of rewards for faithfulness. Thus, all believers need to live lives of integrity even in the small things.

The “good news” in 1 Timothy though is found in verse 25. In that passage, we see a similar comparison where some good works are manifest to all, but some good works are unknown to all. Those secret actions of sacrifice for the benefit of others can almost make a Christian ask, “does anyone notice this?” We all should be encouraged because God sees everything. These good works will also be addressed at the Bema Judgment. God is so gracious that he even wants to reward me for seen and unseen acts of service!  What an amazing God!

Father, thank you for this reminder of the need for faithfulness in my life in both the big things and the little things.  I must not be duped into thinking that my good works which do not get recognized by others should no longer be done because you see it all and will reward acts of faithfulness even though they are hidden from others.  This truth also is a great reminder that I need to be faithful in the things that people see and the things that they don’t because you know and I will give an account of my service to you at the Bema Seat Judgment.  Thank you for loving me so!

Following Jesus with you,

Perspective

Have you noticed in life that sometimes your heart can become bitter because of what you have experienced or seen in the world that you do not understand? And then, after some time, you realize that you were acting inappropriately and doubting God and his care for you?

There certainly have been times in my life where that has happened. I was encouraged to see that it is not only me that has gone through times like that. In fact, notice what it says in Ps. 73:21-22,

“Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
and I was all torn up inside.
I was so foolish and ignorant—
I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.”

Asaph, the author of this Psalm, experienced these times as well. He was troubled by the prosperity of the wicked to the point that he became embittered. It did not seem right or fair. It caused him to act like a “senseless animal” toward God.

What I found so encouraging in this passage is found in the next couple of verses. It is there that Asaph realizes something very important. Notice what he says,

Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.”

Even though he had treated God inappropriately, God was still there holding his hand! God was still guiding him through his Word. As Asaph thought about this reality, he saw that his destiny is so much greater than the current prosperity of the wicked! As a result, he renewed his commitment to God and continued to pursue him above anything else in life.  He renewed his perspective based upon God’s promises.

Father, thank you for your patient love toward me even when I act inappropriately toward you. Your love for me never fails. Thank you that through faith in Christ, my destiny is something to look forward to even though circumstance in this present life can be unfair and hard to understand. Thank you for walking with me today and every day no matter what might come my way. You are my Rock that will never fail.

Following Jesus with you,

Learning Contentment

Most of us have struggled with the concept of contentment. Our culture is doing all it can to convince us that we should not be content. The world says that we have to have more stuff or better circumstances to be content. Webster defines the word “content” as “pleased and satisfied: not needing more.” How are you doing with being content right now where you are and with what you have?

In reading through Philippians, Paul’s words challenged me. Notice what he said in Phil. 4:11-13.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

It is easy to forget that Paul spoke these words while in prison. He had experienced great need and abundance and in the process of life learned the valuable lesson of contentment. He could be content with little or much; in good circumstances or bad.

A biblical definition of the Greek word for contentment is “pertaining to being happy or content with what one has—‘content with the circumstances in which one exists.’” (Louw and Nida)

This definition points out that contentment can be found regardless of circumstances or the things we possess. Therefore, contentment is not found in stuff or circumstances. The solution is found in the last verse. It is found only in the Lord. Contentment comes from him and in my relationship to him. Circumstances and possessions come and go. I need to learn from Paul and find contentment now, not in the future or when things change.

I remember a quote by Chuck Swindoll that I memorized years ago which says, “the good life, the one that truly satisfies, exists only when you stop wanting a better one. It is the condition of savoring what is rather than longing for what might be.” I need to learn how to savor the present regardless of the circumstances!

Father, thank you that you are the one who brings contentment in life. It is my relationship with you that allows me to appreciate what I have now and enables me to say it is enough. For me, this comes from having a grateful heart. I need to think right and count my blessings. You have been so good to me in the past and are now as well I need to think on these things and trust you with the future and all that awaits me there. Help me to live in the moment with a grateful heart so that I can find contentment in you rather than my possessions or circumstances.

Following Jesus with you.

The Heart of a Father

When I think of the apostle Paul many things come to my mind. He was a trained Pharisee, had a miraculous conversion, was greatly used by God to spread the Gospel; he suffered greatly for the Kingdom, and he often did not receive the respect given to the other apostles.

The thing that stood out to me today about Paul is mentioned in 2 Cor. 12:14-15. That passage says,

I don’t want what you have—I want you. After all, children don’t provide for their parents. Rather, parents provide for their children. I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me.”

Paul expresses the heart of a spiritual father in relation to the Corinthians. The Corinthian church had many problems. As their spiritual father, he addresses their sin and seeks to get them to live in harmony with God’s will, but he appears to be failing. Things were so bad in the Corinthian church that Paul states the following, a couple of verses later,

“For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior. Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.”

Paul longed to see his children in the faith own their faith and live it. His role in their lives was not always comfortable. He had to confront sin with them and challenge their disobedience. But, he did it as a loving dad who was grieved at what he saw in their lives. He also expressed what most dads would say about their children; his interest in them was not because he wanted their money or stuff. He wanted them because he loved them. He was ready and willing to give his life and all he had to their benefit. What a great dad!

Father, as great as Paul was, as a spiritual father to his converts, you are my spiritual Father. You love me more than I can ever imagine. You don’t want my “stuff” you want me! Help me to be faithful and live the way you desire so that you are not grieved when you look at my life like Paul was when he looked at the lives of the Corinthians.

Following Jesus with you,