Mulling It Over - Part 5

It is that time of month again, where I take a look at a particular portion of scripture and ruminate on it by tearing it apart verse by verse. For those of you who following me regularly you know I have been wading through 2 Timothy 2:20-26. The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy were written by Paul to Timothy a young pastor of a growing group of believers in the early church age. The books were written to encourage Timothy in the face of disgruntled church members. Not only were there members who looked down on Timothy because he was young, but there were members who were living a less than moral life style.

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20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

You can see my musings on the first four verses by clicking on each of the links. Week 1 - Verse 20, Week 2 - Verse 21, Week 3 - Verse 22, Week 4 - Verse 23. Today I'll be discussing Verse 24.

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
— 2 Timothy 2:24 (NASB)

Before we look at the traits of a bondservant we should take a moment to define what a bond-servant was in the New Testament time period. Note the following quotes from an online article regarding the role of a bondservant. 

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The term “bondservant” in the New Testament (bond-servant or slave in some translations) is a translation of the Greek word doulos. Unlike perceptions of modern slavery, bondservant or doulos is a relatively broad term with a wider range of usage. In the time of the New Testament a bondservant could refer at times to someone who voluntarily served others. In most cases, however, the term referred to a person in a permanent role of service. A bondservant was considered the property of a Roman citizen, holding no right to leave his place of service.
— from an online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth. org
In many New Testament books, the word bondservant was used in reference to a person’s commitment to Jesus. Most of Paul’s letters begin by referring to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. James and Jude, half-brothers of Jesus, both refer to themselves as Christ’s bondservants. The apostle Peter called himself a “servant and apostle”
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org
The importance of these New Testament authors referring to themselves as bondservants should not be overlooked. Despite proclaiming a message of freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, these writers were dedicated to Jesus as their one master. Further, their service to the Lord was not one they could consider leaving. Just as a bondservant was more than an employee who could leave for another job, these Christians were servants who could never leave their master for another.
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org

If you are a committed Christ follower, then you could say you are His bondservant. It is something I struggle to be, in all honesty. I want to be committed 100% to my Savior and yes my Master...I am not afraid to use that word. We live in a world where the idea of calling someone Lord or Master is not pleasant and truth be told, there is no master that is worthy of our life's commitment other than Jesus. However, there is a disconnect between saying I want to be a bondservant and actually being one. Let's see what the qualities are of one who calls Jesus Master.

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1. Not quarrelsome.

Okay! I am disqualified already. How about you? As a wife, do you ever find yourself quarreling with your spouse? I think most of you know what the word quarrel means. It is not just a matter of disagreeing with someone. We often disagree with our bosses, other employees, our parents and people we are following on social media, but we don't necessarily quarrel with them. When we quarrel we are trying to make our point, not only heard but adhered to. 

Why do you supposed Paul brought up this particular characteristic with Timothy? I personally do not believe Timothy was a quarrelsome chap. In fact, I think it was because people in his congregation were opinionated troublemakers that Paul encouraged Timothy...don't even go there. It won't get you any where. Just like we looked at last month to refuse ignorant and foolish speculations, so too, we should not allow ourselves to become participants in quarreling. 

I find this is incredibly hard with our significant others. We often feel, that we have a right to spew at them, because, after all we are married and they have to take the good with the bad. I hate to tell you ladies, as the Lord's bondservants we are not to be quarrelsome, end of discussion!

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2. Kind to all.

Does that mean everyone? Yes. Does that mean that person at work that I absolutely can't stand? Yes. Does that mean that teller at the bank who is always grumpy and scowling? Yes. Does that mean that person I thought was a friend that talked about me behind my back? Yes. 

Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
— Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

What that means is we have the ability to be kind, all the time, to everyone. Once again, the fruit of the Spirit is His fruit. It grows in our lives as we become better and better at abiding in Christ. As His bondservant we must be kind to all. 

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3. Able to teach.

We could argue on this point that not everyone can be expected to teach, because not everyone has the gift of teaching. However, I would like to interject that we are all capable of teaching by example. You may not be gifted to stand in front of people and give a lecture like my husband is. You may not be good at leading a small group and explaining to others what a Bible passage means, but you can be an example of love and kindness to your children or your grand children. You might be able to teach a younger woman how to cook, take care of her first child or patch a hole in her husband's sock. The point is patience and willingness. We can all be teachers of this type by merely being willing to take the time to show others love and kindness. 

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4. Patient when wronged. 

This is right up there with not being quarrelsome in the hardness factor. We live in a society based on rights. If you hurt me, I have the right to seek retribution whether by payment or incarceration. I am not saying criminals should not be punished. However, there are times that we as the body of Christ are just as hard or harder on our own brothers and sisters when they have wronged us as the penal system is on a criminal. 

I am sure Timothy, as a young pastor had to endure a plethora of wrongs done against him by his own flock. Paul's advice to him is just as pertinent to us today. It is not easy to be hurt or wronged and then patient in the face of it. We want an instantaneous fix. We don't want to be mercy showers and wait for God to move in, not only the other person's life, but ours as well. God is on our side. He is just and merciful and we need to trust Him when faced with this sort of difficulty. It is never the case that only one person has been hurt. 

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— I Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

If you feel a tad bit convicted after reading through these four characteristics of a bondservant of Christ, then know you are not alone. I am walking this journey with you. I am glad that He is long suffering and He keeps working on us, after all we call Him Master. 

Mulling It Over - Part 1

Last year I did a Mulling It Over series on Ephesians 6:10-18. It took me a period of months to dig deeply into that passage on the armor of God. This year I would like to use the same format to dig into a few other passages that are worth chewing on slowly. According to Webster's online dictionary, the word ruminate means to go over in the mind repeatedly, often in a slow, casual fashion or to chew repeatedly for an extended period of time. That is what we are going to do with these passages. 

Pixabay - this little guy looks like he'll be chewing for a while!

Pixabay - this little guy looks like he'll be chewing for a while!

The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy in the New Testament were letters written by Paul to Timothy, pastor of the church at Ephesus. Timothy had journeyed with Paul on his second and third missionary journeys. The two knew each other and had spent plenty of time working and ministering side by side. Paul's purpose in these letters was to encourage and give practical advice and instruction for the pastor of a church. 

First Timothy presents the most explicit and complete instructions for church leadership and organization in the entire Bible. This includes sections on appropriate conduct in worship gatherings, the qualifications of elders and deacons, and the proper order of church discipline.
— Chuck Swindoll (from Insight for Living Ministries)

With regards to 2 Timothy:

Paul knew that Timothy’s task of keeping the church within the bounds of sound doctrine while encouraging believers to live their lives well for the sake of Christ would be an often thankless and difficult task. Though hardship would come, Paul wanted Timothy to continue in those things he had learned, drawing on the rich heritage of faith that had been passed down to the young pastor, not just from Paul but also from his mother and grandmother
— Chuck Swindoll (from Insight for Living Ministries)

Both letters written to Timothy are worth mulling over, but for the next few months, I want to look at just a few verses from 2 Timothy 2.

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

 

Let me preface the discussion with a key point:

This was written to the church leadership. This is important to remember when we look at the terminology in the passage. I would add, it is written to any mature Christian, since it is included in the Bible. I added the word mature, because part of this passage talks about teaching and I think it is important that we have Christians who know God's word and not only understand it, but live it in leadership and teaching positions.

All that being said, let's take a look at the first verse:

Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
— 2 Timothy 2:20 (NASB)

How can we dissect this verse to squeeze as much out of it as possible? I like to take each phrase and ruminate on it. 

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1. Now in a large house....

I believe the idea Paul  is trying to get across is that the church is a big institution. We are not talking the physical size of each individual church, but the body as a whole. A large house, in Paul's day would have indicated power and wealth. While this is still true today (ever watch that series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous), there can be instances of large houses that are completely abandoned. 

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2. ...there are not only gold and silver vessels...

This was another clue that Paul was making a comparison to a house of wealth and power. There were people in the church, just as today, who were wealthy. The church has always had a mix of rich, middle class and poor and it is often the rich and middle class who are giving of their surplus to aid those who go without. 

Gold and silver vessels were akin to us bringing out the good silver ware for a holiday dinner, at least that is something my mother used to do. I don't have any good silver ware. It is what it is. Ha, ha. But back in the day, this was an important thing to do when entertaining guests. Cleaning, polishing and making everything comfortable is the way we have chosen to honor the guests brought into our homes for centuries. 

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3. ...but also vessels of wood and earthenware...

Not all vessels are the same. There are gold and silver, those vessels used for special occasions, but there are also vessels of wood and earthenware. Are you following the analogy? Paul is not talking about actual cups and bowls, he is talking about people! All of us are vessels. Some of us are gold and silver. We are flashy and showy. We bring in a crowd or we brighten up a room. Some us us are wood and earthenware. We are stable, consistent and incredibly functional, but we are not recognized beyond that. 

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4. ...and some to honor and some to dishonor...

What exactly does Paul mean in this phrase? Simply put, we are all capable of honoring God, but we are also all capable of dishonoring Him.

Timothy was a young pastor and not everyone in his congregation thought he was up to the task. Rather than encouraging him and trying to work with him, a few of his congregants became obsessed with his age and felt he didn't have enough experience to properly pastor a church. He also had congregants who were involved in some less than savory things, but more on that next month. 

So what can we learn from this one verse today:

1. We are part of His body - the big house.

2. We are all vessels.

3. Not all of us are gold or silver. Some of us are wood or earthenware.

4. We are all capable of honoring or dishonoring God.

I hope and pray that as you read this post you will realize that we are all important in His body, or house - the church. I also hope you will see your worth. It doesn't matter who you are, what you look like or what you do as a job or how much money you make, you are important to the body of Christ. 

Have a great day!

 

 

 

Three Little Commands - Pray without Ceasing

When we think about our lives how many things do you do without ceasing? Well, I can come up with a few like dishes, laundry and.....Okay, okay, so maybe they aren't constant, but it sure seems that way sometimes. The things that we do without ceasing have more to do with those functions of our bodies that we call involuntary....we do them without thinking. Breathing, swallowing, blinking, these are all things we don't really think about. Yes, our brain does think about them, but we don't consciously choose to breathe, unless we are taking a birthing class or meditating. Ha, ha. Our brain controls all of those cycles and tasks that our body performs that we never give a thought to. Good thing! If I had to think about making my digestive system turn food into all its usable and unusable components, I would probably just give up.

When Paul tells the believers at the church of Thessalonica to "...pray without ceasing..." what exactly does he mean? Is he saying that we should pray like we do our laundry and dishes....when the piles get so high they have to be done or we will be wearing the same pair of underwear again, or we will be eating without plates and silverware? In all honesty that is the way my life is. I only do laundry when we are starting to run out of the essentials and the dishes not only take up the space in the dishwasher and drying rack, but in the sink and on the counter next to the sink! 

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Even more unfortunate, that is how my prayer life is. I put it off and put it off until I am driven to my knees by forces beyond my control. When life piles it on higher and higher until there is  no more avoiding it, the only option left is prayer.

I know I feel better when my laundry is done and my dishes are all in their homes in the cupboards rather than in messy piles around the sink (or even the whole kitchen when it is really bad). I feel like I have accomplished something and have a sense of peace that those things aren't hanging over my head, waiting to be attended to. When my home is messy, cluttered and chaotic, my life feels that way as well. So why is it, so often, things get to that point? Because life happens!

The same is true of our prayer lives. When I am in sync with God and I am praying in His spirit, I feel at peace. Life can be chaotic around me, but I am one and at rest with HIm. One of my favorite authors of the past is Oswald Chambers. His devotional My Utmost for His Highest is a daily read for me and has been since my husband gave me the book in 2007. I'd like to share a few things from one of His devotionals. 

Prayer does not equip us for the greater works—-prayer is the greater work.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 17th

We live in a world that is work oriented. Not only do we work at work, we work at home and we work at play. All that work is good. Having a job helps pay the bills. Doing the laundry gives us fresh clothes to wear. Being part of a health club or a sports team gives us benefits socially and physically. However, as a Christ follower, my greatest work is prayer. 

Ever since I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of twelve I have acknowledge this idea in the back of my head, but it didn't really become a central part of my life until I became an adult and then became a parent of adult children. Prayer is the force that moves mountains. I cannot change a person's heart, but God can. I cannot heal a sick child, but God can. I cannot direct this country, but God can. He is in control. I won't go into why God says yes or why He says no, but it comes down to trust. 

When I became a grandparent a little over six years ago, I was able to revisit the idea of child like faith. As I watched my grandson grow and learn and experience life I realized how very much God desires we come to Him as a little child; full of wonder, curiosity, and trust. My grandson never wondered where I was. He always knew I was there. He didn't wonder if I would pick him up when he cried, he just knew I would. 

We must go to God as His child, because only a child gets his prayers answered; a ‘wise’ man does not.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - October 17th

A little child has a degree of trust that far exceeds anything we can understand, that is, until that trust is broken. The little child has an amazing capacity to believe. Just think about children and Santa Clause. Unless someone explains that Santa is merely a tale based on the historical figure of Saint Nicolas a child will enjoy the belief that Santa is a very real and magical being. He will also believe that Santa is good and will bring him gifts on Christmas morning.

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That is what coming to God in prayer should be like. We should come to Him, regularly, consistently and with anticipation of what He will do. He may not answer our prayers in the fashion that we deem best, but we can choose, like that little child, to trust Him, because we know that He is good. Goodness is a part of His character and He cannot be otherwise.

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
— Psalm 106:1 (NASB)

How do we pray without ceasing? Just like we breath. Without a thought. When the day is sunny and the sky is blue, I breath a prayer of joy. When I am tired and need His strength, I breath a prayer of petition. When I am sad, or scared, I breath a prayer of scripture, knowing that His word brings peace and hope. When life is so overwhelming I feel as though I cannot go on, I only breath and let Him do the rest. 

The Imperishable Prize

There may be no other simple six letter word that invokes so much stress and fear as change. Have you ever considered how much change you go through in a day, a week, a month or a year, let alone your life time? I was thinking about the changes that I have encountered in the last month. My daughter found a new job which changed her schedule, so that changed my grandson's schedule, which in turn, changed my schedule. Certain procedures at my place of employment changed, which changed how I did the schedule and changed the amount of time I had to spend working on the schedule. Changes are not always good. Sometimes, they are just excruciatingly frustrating. 

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In the last few months my daughter and son-in-law have had both cars in the shop, my nephew who was supposed to get married, didn't, another nephew had a daughter which no one was aware of until the mother went into labor and my hairdresser decided to give up being a hairdresser for a different full time job. All of these changes in some way affected my world. Wouldn't it be nice to just go a few hours, days, weeks or even months without changes?

And let's not forget the change, that wonderful time period that all women get to look forward to. Weight gain, hot flashes, abnormal periods, oh the joy! 

Don't get me wrong, many changes are good. Giving up smoking or excessive sugar is good for your health. Ending a toxic relationship is good for your well being. Starting to exercise can, not only help your heart, but improve your mood. Reading can open your mind and imagination to new worlds and learning something new can help delay memory loss. Much of change is good and necessary. 

God does not want us to be static. Webster defines static as showing little or no change, action or progress. Our lives are supposed to change and grow as we come to know Jesus more and as we learn to trust and obey Him.

Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull .

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
— I Corinthians 9:19-27 (NASB)

The Apostle Paul was not only uniquely aware of change, he was an agent of change. Once a top shelf Pharisee, persecutor of Christ followers, he met the Lord Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. You can see his conversion in Acts 9:1-19. This intellectual Jew, raised in the strict order of the Pharisees, became a Christian. He changed. He went from killing Christians to believing in Christ and becoming one of the greatest leaders in the early Christian church. 

Paul knew that change did not end the moment he became born again. He was aware that his faith was going to be an ever evolving and changing thing. His desire became, to become all things to all men, so that Christ might be preached. He wanted to do his best and he knew that meant working at his faith and his relationship with Jesus.

I am thoroughly convicted by the above passage.

1. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run - Really? Do I remember I am even in the race, let alone that I am supposed to be running. I am not a runner, but I am smart enough to understand that being in a marathon takes hard work, discipline and practice. What do marathon runners practice? Piano? Chess? Painting? No! They practice running. They run to build their endurance and then they run to increase their speed. So the first question I need to ask myself is, 

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Am I running in the race or am I sitting on the sidelines being a spectator? I believe there are times we are on the sidelines. Runners get injuries, after which they have to take time to heal. As Christ followers and as human beings we get injured. We feel pain. And often that means we have to sit out for a spell. However, the analogy goes deeper. Let's say I am one of those marathon runners. My goal may be to win or just to make it to the finish line. If I fall and get injured do I stop or do I keep going? That all depends on the extent of the injury. We live in a world of hurt and pain. Our churches are filled with hurting people. Once in a while we get hurt by one of those hurting people. Does that mean I'm out of the race? Not if God is on your side.

2. Run in such a way that you may win - Winning? Hmmm. I don't feel like I am winning when I keep getting knocked down over and over. But think about it. A soldier who goes into combat keeps getting up and firing back until he can't get up any more. He knows the prize - to win the war, to keep people safe and protect human dignity and freedom. He fights for that to his very death because he is focused on the prize. So my second question is,

Am I running to win? - I have been. I am answering that question honestly. There are times in the last few years where I feel like I have hunkered down in a trench to hide and hope I don't have to ever show my head in the race again. But, my heart says, I want to run and run to win. Jesus' Spirit in me, is not going to let me give up, not if I really believe in the prize.

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3. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things - Excuse me? What did you say? Self-control? What is that? You mean you want me to not eat that other donut? You mean you want me to take a walk when I would rather sit in front of the TV? You mean you want me to hold my tongue when that customer was extremely rude to me? You mean you want me to love, give and care even when there is nothing in return? So my third question (no, I don't know how to count) is, 

Do all things, really mean all things? - Uh, yeah! So true, but so hard to do! But what is the motivation? For the Olympians past and present it is to receive a perishable wreath, or gold medal. For a Christ follower it is to receive an imperishable wreath. To hear Jesus say, "Well, done." To me, that seems worth the effort. 

4. Therefore I run in such a way as not without aim. I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. - It seems to me we need to have a purpose for what we do...not without aim, not beating the air. Disciplining ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. My fourth question then is,

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For what purpose? - Paul says it is so that he might not be disqualified. Paul didn't want to mess up, not for his own pride and reputation, but for his Lord. Our goal as a follower of Christ should be to lift Him up; to glorify Him; to turn people toward Him. 

What does that all have to do with change? Everything. Every day we experience change we can either take it in stride and glorify Jesus, or we can whine and complain. I know I am not always going to run with the aim in mind and at times I may even be beating the air, but I want to keep running. I want to remember why I run...for the imperishable prize.