“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
1 Timothy 1: 1-2
Over the next weeks (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) I want to encourage us through the first letter of Timothy. Today I’d like to prepare us for this journey and explain why I think this would be beneficial for us. Firstly, I believe that God’s Word is truth, always relevant and a blessing, secondly this letter speaks into our culture, society and situation and therefore is not only applicable but valuable; let me explain why:
The letter is written by Paul the Apostle to Timothy. There is some debate that Paul may not have actually written the letter but at the time it was written (50-100AD), it was quite common for someone to write in another’s name (this does not answer all the questions but is as far as I will go in a short blog). That said the relationship between Paul and Timothy is very clear. Paul had just been released from prison and had discovered that leaders in the Ephesian Church were distorting the message of Jesus Christ and promoting the philosophies of the day; they were also forbidding certain practices such as marriage. Paul sent his co-worker to the Church with this letter expecting it to be shared with the Church as a whole. This letter, the second one and Titus are known as the Pastoral letters because they instruct Timothy and Titus in their Pastoral duties and also the Church in her ministries. This first letter covers subjects such as: truth and false teaching; public worship; leadership; social responsibility; material possessions; and of special importance and focus the leadership of Jesus Christ.
We live in a time where some argue that there is no absolute truth; that so-called truth is subjective and conditioned by culture. Each person can have their own truth which others should respect. If we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us this letter will speak God’s Word into our lives on this matter in relation to the topics listed above. The letter is also very helpful because its recipient, Timothy, is an individual we can empathise with. He is a real person like us who is shy and needs affirmation and encouragement (2 Tim. 1: 7). He suffers with ill health (1 Tim. 5: 23) and struggles with being respected due to his age (1 Tim. 4: 12).
So, let us prepare our hearts, minds and wills for what God is going to reveal to us from His word.
To Ponder: I would encourage you to read the whole letter over the weekend so that the contents begin to sit in your mind where the Holy Spirit can commence His work. Perhaps as an initial question consider why Paul addresses Timothy in these opening verses as ‘my true son in the faith?’
Prayer: Lord we simply ask that you prepare our hearts, minds and wills to receive your grace, mercy and peace through your Word that we may respond in faith, obedience, freedom and joy. Amen
Praise: Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6LC8cu03Ig
he book of Haggai contains a series of messages from the Lord delivered to his people after the Exile. Many of them had returned to Jerusalem. They planned to rebuild their destroyed temple, but they got sidetracked fixing up their own homes. Through His prophet Haggai, God encouraged a change in priorities: “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins?” (1:4) The people then began to restore God’s Temple, but they soon realized with great sadness that it would never be as glorious as Solomon’s Temple had been. So God sent another message, assuring that He would once again fill His Temple with His glory:
This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: in just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (2:6-7)
How was this prophecy fulfilled? When did or will this shaking come? Like so many of the Old Testament prophecies, it is being fulfilled in stages, with a partial fulfillment in the coming of Jesus and a final fulfilment yet to come.
By the time Jesus began his ministry, Herod had rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. And the Lord did indeed fill his Temple with His glory just by Jesus stepping into it and beginning to teach.
But this was not the end of the shaking or the ultimate filling with glory that God had in mind. Jesus predicted another shaking of the Temple that would come when He was crucified. Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” …. When Jesus said “this temple, He meant his own body” (John 2:19, 21).
And we know there is more shaking and more filling with glory to come. That glory will be the reality we live in for all eternity in heaven. John described his vision of heaven, saying, “I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:22).
Prayer – Jesus, shaker of the heavens and the earth, shake me from my complacency so I will strengthen my grip on you for the final shaking. I worship you with holy fear and awe. Thank you for giving me the undeserved gift of a place in your unshakable Kingdom.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 5: 1
Luke 19: 41-44; Philippians 4: 6-7
On Monday we considered how we can deal with life’s challenges by standing firm in Jesus Christ. Today I’d like just to remind us why Jesus is that source of peace (and strength). If we go back a short period in time from our reading in Luke on Monday we will find today’s passage. Jesus is entering Jerusalem in a triumphant fashion but is deeply emotional, weeping over the state of the city’s population (vs. 41). His anguish is the result of the people’s failure to recognise Him as the way of peace (vs. 42); this will bring about Christ’s death and later resurrection. Jesus then foretells the destruction of the temple, which he again reiterated in Monday’s passage; this disaster occurred because they had not understood that Jesus was God incarnate in their midst (vs. 43-44).
The failure of God’s people to recognise Jesus for who He is, is the failure of many today. True peace comes from having peace with God; this comes from a right relationship with God. The people of Jerusalem were in a situation of occupation, they faced persecution and trouble ahead; they could not find peace in the face of oppression. They knew of ‘shalom,’ a state of peace, harmony and wholeness through God but they did not recognise its basis in and through Jesus Christ. Christ’s subsequent death and resurrection has become for us the foundation of peace with God. He has paid our price and paved the way of peace for us to His and our Father. Romans 5: 1 reminds us that if we repent and believe in Him, in grace God justifies us and so we have peace with God. This is why Jesus is the source of our peace; a truth well worth remembering!
As well as bringing us peace with God Jesus can bring the peace of God into our lives. Our verses in Philippians encourages us to pray with that same faith in the many and wonderful forms of prayer open to us. The result is that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
These are truths that you may well know and believe; they are worth meditating upon to prevent familiarity reducing their power. May we all know peace with God and the peace of God in and through Jesus Christ.
To Ponder: How might Jesus bring peace to your life today; which form will it take?
Prayer: Pray through Psalm 103 as a means of praise filled prayer that will remind you of God’s blessings and enable His peace in your life
Praise: My Peace
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls01XGV7oA0
Peace, Be Still
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBzg4B3_yS8
Reading: Matthew 6:19-34
When I was fresh out of high school, I worked at a children’s Bible camp, which also happened to be a ranch. One day we were trying to teach the kids how to direct their horses with their weight and posture. An egg was placed on the ground and the kids were tasked with walking their horse over the egg to break it. When the rider looked worryingly down at the egg, their weight shifted in the saddle and the horse would move away from the egg, missing it completely. But when the rider looked straight ahead and rode toward the egg without looking directly at it, the egg made a satisfying “crack” as it crushed beneath the horse’s hoof. The gaze of the rider had a direct impact on the path of the horse.
In Matthew 6, we are told that the eye is the lamp of the body. If our eyes are good, our whole body will be full of light, but if our eyes are bad, our bodies are full of darkness. So, the eye, our vision, plays a significant role, impacting the rest of our bodies and this means we ought to be both careful and intentional about where we fix our gaze. I find it particularly meaningful that this nugget of wisdom is squished into the context of a particularly rich section of scripture.
Jesus has just told his listeners that, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He is encouraging them not to be materialistic, desiring to accumulate worldly wealth. Having the wrong focus equals choosing the wrong path: if a person desires to be rich and seeks after worldly wealth and material possessions, they will completely miss finding that which is of true worth—the immaterial treasures of heaven.
So what are these otherworldly treasures? Scripture teaches us that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10) We are to work at these things as if we were working for the Lord and not for men, and he promises, “You will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward…” (Col 3:24).
But it’s not just about doing these good works to gain a reward some day, it’s about the gift and treasure of knowing our Father God and having relationship with him, knowing our identity as his children. When we recognize how valuable we are to him and we set our eyes on our King and his Kingdom, we can be assured he will give us all that we need to fulfill the calling and purpose for which he made us. In contrast, worrying about our wealth or well-being, having a distracted focus, much like those kids looking down at that egg, is a sure way to miss the mark in terms of walking in our God-given destiny.
With all the tumultuousness of the last 7 months of this worldwide pandemic, are we seeing our values, the way we spend our time, our relationships, the way we work and do business, the way we live our lives, differently than we would have a year ago? We know the saying, “hindsight is 20/20”. In the global reset of the Year 2020, we have been given the opportunity to stop and reflect and re-calibrate back to clear 20/20 vision.
So what are you looking at? What distractions have gotten in the way of you enjoying your relationship with Father God? Are you confident you are walking in the purpose he has for you? What is one thing you can do today to gain more clarity about the direction your life is heading?
Where You Belong/Turn Your Eyes on Jesus
Give Us Clean Hands
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4: 16
Luke 21: 5-19
How do we cope in a crisis? What is our reaction in difficult times and what is our source of strength. Martin Luther King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Archbishop William Temple (a very appropriate surname for a man of the cloth!) said, “Religion is what you do with your solitude.” In others words our true self comes out when no one else is around so our faith is clearly seen. We can argue from these wise words that when challenge comes our true character may well be revealed and our faith shown for what it is.
So how does Jesus, the wisdom of God, counsel us for such times? In our Luke reading Jesus is warning of difficult times ahead and of His return. There is dialogue over how His words apply to the imminent destruction of the temple in His day and to His return. It is most likely both/and rather than either/or. This discussion though is not today’s focus. The principles He teaches are; these are both applicable to His disciples then and His disciples today. I would like to highlight three such truths:
These truths, and the passage as a whole, remind us that all is not dependent on us; His power, provision and presence equip us to stand firm in the face of challenges. The throne of Grace is there for us to approach and bow before to receive all that we need. The literal translation of this verse (Hebrews 4: 16) is that God’s Grace, His provision, is well-timed. So when we face times of challenge we are to stand on the truth of Jesus Christ, our solid foundation and rock, our faith will be shown for what it is and God will provide the Grace we need.
To Ponder: What times of challenge have you faced or are you facing right now? How do Jesus’ directions to witness, not worry and stand firm help? Focus on His provision and presence in prayer and know the difference He makes
Prayer: Lord Jesus in our trials and temptations enable us to come before you to seek your grace. In our renewed confidence take away our fears and help us to be true witnesses to your love, standing firm in faith and so giving glory to our Father. We ask this in and through your name. Amen
Praise: On Christ the Solid Rock I stand
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GswGE6rQhmE
Your Grace is enough
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpYtYYaTFGQ
“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness.”
Malachi 3: 3 (see also Isaiah 48: 10 and Proverbs 25: 4)
Ephesians 4: 4-7, 14-15
Have you ever been caught out in open water when a storm comes? It can be truly terrifying, especially if the clouds bring darkness and reduce visibility. You can lose sight of land and so a sense of direction; the reality of vulnerability is huge and you know that you are not in control. There is a sense of this in our Ephesians reading (vs. 14) as Paul warns the Church against false teaching, truths and deceitfulness. Once the Church takes her eyes of God and His truth she can be tossed to and fro like a ship on the ocean which is rudderless and captain-less. This is true for the Church as a whole and individual Christians.
There are indeed many falsehoods permeating Churches that would, can and do divert her from God’s course. Circumstances though can affect the Church in similar ways and, yes, I am obviously thinking about the pandemic and its impact. In all of these situations God calls us to see clearly and act wisely by fixing our eyes on Him. We are reminded in Ephesians that there is one Holy Spirit to guide, one hope in Jesus Christ, one faith to which we are called through baptism and one God who is Father of all (vs. 4-6). In these deep truths we see the Grace by which God has called us and endowed us for mission in His Church (vs. 7). In a storm a sailor needs to hold to the course directed by the Captain, follow the route on the chart shown by the compass and harness the power of the wind. As a Church and Christians we need to hold to God’s course, following the route of His Word (living and written) shown by the Spirit and allow Him to empowered us.
One further truth that can encourage us in these times of trial is the power of God’s refining work. He will use these difficulties to ‘burn off the dross’ of our lives so that we become more like Jesus (see above verses). In my conversations with folk, and in my own life, I have found that these circumstances present a clear challenge, “Do we really believe what we believe?” As our vulnerability displays our lack of control our true foundations in life are revealed. Are we trusting in our own western wealth or the riches of Jesus Christ, is the Church our true family or something just for Sundays, do we live for this world alone or are our hearts set on eternity with God? If we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and hold our course we can know that God will refine us, grow us and bless us; believe what you believe with all your hearts, believe in the truth of Jesus Christ.
To Ponder: What challenges your belief in Jesus Christ? Where are the eyes of your heart and faith focused? Take your doubts and concerns to the Lord and His Word….ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide.
Prayer: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Praise: Refiner’s Fire
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Y8zP34AhuU
One Faith one Lord
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVEyrHiSm6Y
The word of the Lord came to the prophet Jonah, and it was not at all what Jonah wanted to hear. “Get up and go to the great city of Ninevah. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are” (Jonah 1:2). The next verse shows how Jonah felt about the very idea of being used by God to bring the people of Ninevah to repentance. “But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction.”
Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah because he knew God. He knew about God’s heart of mercy toward wicked Gentiles and his longing that they repent and be saved from judgement. Jonah knew that God would have mercy and bring his enemies to repentance. And Jonah didn’t want them to repent; he wanted them to be destroyed. He selfishly wanted the Israelites to keep salvation to themselves and have their enemies pay for their evil deeds.
What a contrast to the one who was greater than Jonah! While Jonah was selfish, resentful, and unmerciful toward his nation’s enemies, Jesus moved towards his enemies, coming into this sin-filled world with compassion, love and mercy. This is especially good news for us because we were once God’s enemies. In his mercy, Jesus broke through our rebellion to bring us to himself. Paul wrote, “Our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies” (Romans 5:10).
And Jesus wants us to treat our enemies with the same kind of mercy he lavished on us. “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you,” he said (Luke 6:27).
As Jonah came to his senses, he said “My salvation comes from the Lord alone” (Jonah 2:9). Jonah knew that salvation is the Lord’s to give to whomever he pleases. God would rather save then destroy. He shows mercy to whomever he chooses. And we who have received God’s mercy are to be the conduits of God’s mercy to others – even to our enemies.
Often this truth can seem so hard and even impossible at times. But our merciful God is one that makes the impossible – possible. It’s acts like this that can change the world around us.
Prayer – Merciful Savior, I was once a rebel against you and you were merciful to me. I know that you intend for me to share the mercy you have lavished on me with those around me – even those I have seen as my enemies. That is what I want to do. That is who I desire to be – one who has been so changed by the mercy extended to me in Christ that I can’t help but extend your mercy to everyone around me.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10: 5
Matthew 10: 5-31
The American Pastor and Author, Eugene Peterson writes, “Wisdom is the art of living skillfully in whatever actual conditions we find ourselves.” To live wisely we need to think clearly, to think clearly we need to see well. Unashamedly I speak and teach a lot on having the mind of Christ who is God’s wisdom for us. So we need to see Jesus clearly, think like Him and be enabled by the Spirit to act like Him – our being directs our doing. In our above recorded verse there is clear direction towards such wisdom. If Christ is our foundation then He is our platform from which to step out into the world and our example to imitate. In our Gospel reading Jesus is sending His disciples out into the world. His directions to them have much guidance for us in our lives. I would encourage you to read the whole chapter and grasp His directions for you. Here though are a five salient teachings from the reading selected for today:
To act wisely in this world is to imitate Jesus Christ and to obey His Word. The Holy Spirit empowers and enables us individually but in a very real way through the Church as a whole. As we see our reality more clearly may we live more nearly to the way of Christ.
To Ponder: Which of the five pointers from the Gospel reading resonates most with you? Why is the Holy Spirit highlighting this in your mind and heart; what is He asking of you?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, you for us are Wisdom from God, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. May your Holy Spirit open our minds to your wisdom, our hearts to your love and our wills to obedience. Enable us to walk in your way of service in this world. Amen
Praise: Here I am Lord (I the Lord of sea and Sky)
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcxOkht8w7c
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMnIVe4-QUY
Perfect Wisdom of our God
Link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSnzYnOe6kI
Bible Verse: “As God’s fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain, For he says, ‘In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)
When something occurs very rarely, there are several words or phrases that we can use, such as: uncommon, unusual, sparse, or singular.” Sometimes, we’ll just say that it happens “once in a blue moon.” That expression comes from the fact that the moon can appear blue or bluish-green when there is a lot of dust is in the air, such as after a volcanic eruption, or during hot, dry and dusty weather. It doesn’t happen very often. And due to the moon’s monthly cycle, of 29.53 days, all the months of the year, except February, will have at least one full moon. Months with 30 or 31 days will occasionally have two full moons. When this happens, the second full moon is said to be blue, even though it rarely has the blue tint provided by unusual atmospheric conditions. Every 19 years, February lands completely outside of the lunar cycle and it won’t have even one full moon. As a result, both January and March are blessed with two full moons. Rare indeed. Infrequent. Uncommon.
Do you ever have blue moon moments in your life? What are the things that rarely, if ever, happens to you? When I’ve this question of other people, some have said a great round of golf, the kids doing their homework without being prompted, finding a truly comfortable pair of shoes, being genuinely and deeply satisfied.
That last one struck a chord with me. As I grew in my previous career, I would participate in a mentoring program with some of the younger members of our team. One time, however, I was connected with an older man, who was nearing retirement. His name was Morris. He had recently lost his wife to cancer, was occasionally showing up at work hungover, and his work was beginning to slip. Since he was a valued and long-time employee, HR asked me to work with him to try and help him through this obviously difficult time. As we got to know each other better, he became more comfortable with sharing some his challenges. One day after work, he just unloaded his history of pain in my office. As he explained his guilt over past failures, his current insecurity, and his fear of facing the future alone in his retirement, he seemed to be swallowed up by helplessness and despair. Morris seemed to physically shrink in his chair from being a rather large burly man to a child unsure of how to deal with his fears.
We worked for a large company at the time, which was trying to be inclusive of all people in their workforce, and sharing our personal faith was not encouraged. But as I sat listening to him desperately seeking something positive to hold onto in his life, I couldn’t help but think of the difference Jesus had made in my life when I came to know Him. So I threw company policy out the window, and I explained what God had done for me, and that same transformation was available to him, too. I explained God’s unfailing love for him; His willingness to forgive his past mistakes; His delight in helping Morris rebuild his life, and giving him hope and a new future. Morris was overwhelmed. I could see God’s love touch his heart, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he said to me, “Why, in these past 64 years, hasn’t anyone else ever talked me about Jesus like that?”
Experiencing the deep and abiding love of Christ may be “once in a blue moon” experience for many in our society today, but is doesn’t have to be. God’s love does not have lunar cycles, it is not rare, uncommon, or limited. Like the sun, it keeps shining whether we see it or not; whether we feel it or not. It is available to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
If you miss a rare blue moon this year, don’t worry, it will be back. If you know someone who has missed the love of Jesus Christ, don’t worry about that either, it’s available to them right now…if you tell them about it.
In 2024, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.