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Christian Hedonism

1 2 3 13

In today’s Bible reading, Paul highlights several solid marks of godly people.

Godly people are known by what they flee from: False doctrine, the love of money, disputes and arguments over words, envy, quarreling, slander, and evil suspicions. Paul argued against these things throughout his letters.

Godly people are also know by what they pursue and fight for: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. We dont’ have to agree on everything. Actually, it’s helpful if we don’t agree on everything! But the essentials of the faith are worth fighting for. Unfortunately, too often people don’t know what the essentials are. But godly people are careful and pick their battles. They know which hills are worth dying on.

Application

It’s important to note that Paul didn’t give us a list of dos and don’ts as distinguishing marks of godly people. Otherwise — as is our nature — we would use them as checklists to compare ourselves with others. That’s exactly what the Jewish leaders did in the First Century. They thought they were better than others because of the things they did and the things they didn’t do. Many Christians use checklists in the Twenty-First Century, too.

Instead, Paul gives us character qualities, qualities that we find in Jesus Christ, qualities that frankly we can’t manufacture on our own. As we grow to be more like Jesus, our lives manifest His character qualities.

One mark that Paul didn’t bring out here is love. He spends an entire chapter on the mark of love that distinguishes godly people. (1 Corinthians 13) And Jesus pointed out that people would know His disciples by their love for one another. (John 3:35)

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In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells Timothy to guard against people looking down on him because of his youth. We don’t know how old Timothy is. There may have been some concern that this young pastor may not have enough experience or maturity to fulfill his ministry.

There’s a lot to be said about someone with experience in ministry. Years ago as we began our family, we heard someone teach about raising godly children. He had drawn some practical applications from Scripture. But as we pondered what he said, it dawned on us that this man doesn’t have any children. This man isn’t married either. We decided to take what he said with a proverbial grain of salt. Yes, there are truths which any Believer can mine out of God’s Word. Yes, single men can teach a lot from the Bible about raising godly children. But given the choice of a single man with no children and a man with grown, godly children, I’d take the advice of the older man. Most of us probably would.

Obviously, Timothy wasn’t the most experienced pastor, so Paul told him to show himself to be an example of Christian maturity. “Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12 CSB) Timothy can’t do anything about his age. But he can be an example of how a Believer talks, acts, loves, believes, and remains pure.

Application

There is an application for all of us here. Yes, Timothy was a church “elder”. But don’t think that there’s a different moral calling for the “ordained” than for the “ordinary”.

All of us are called to live a life of integrity and obedience to God through the power of the Holy Spirit. There will always be people younger in the faith than you. Ordained or not, you can show yourself as an example of how a believer talks, acts, loves, believes, and remains pure.

I’m not talking about putting on a “holier than thou” front. I’m talking about living a genuine life of growing obedience and dependence on the Holy Spirit. I’m talking about being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. And everyone is called to that.

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Distracting discussions

We begin reading 1 Timothy in today’s Bible reading. Paul reminds Timothy that he should teach people not to teach false doctrine or pay attention to myths and endless genealogies. Why? Because they “promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan which operates by faith”. (1 Timothy 1:3-4, CSB)

Paul refers to Timothy as his “true son in the faith.” (v.2) He sees himself as being a spiritual father and role model to Timothy who is learning the ropes as a young pastor. Obviously, there were some people who weren’t teaching sound/correct doctrine, but rather speculative ideas. Rather than sticking with properly using the Law (the Scriptures available to New Testament Believers), these false teachers seemed to prefer things that distracted from the Gospel message.

I love a deep theological conversation as much as the next guy. Back in my seminary days, several of us would often talk about theological issues late into the night in the stairwell of the men’s dorm. Unfortunately, at least 99.9% of the things we used to argue about are the kinds of things Paul was referring to. Looking back, it’s almost humorous that we literally lost sleep over things that don’t matter and things that distracted us and divided us, as opposed to things that build up each other. (Ephesians 4:29)

It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t refer to false doctrine — as opposed to true doctrine — but rather to different doctrine. Paul uses this word different in 2 Corinthians 11:4 to refer to a different Spirit and different gospel. In Galatians 1:6, Paul says he’s astonished that the church has so quickly turned to a different gospel. Two verses later in Galatians 1:8-9, Paul curses those who would preach a gospel contrary to the one he had preached to them, and presumably he’s equating the contrary and the different gospel they have quickly turned to.

We don’t know what those myths and endless genealogies were. And I’m glad we don’t. But in many ways, we are probably still rehashing the same kinds of distracting discussions that Paul warned Timothy to be on his guard against.

Application

What kinds of things distract you in your Christian walk? They may be innocent things, but what kind of things — that you do or that you enjoy reading or listening to — promote speculations, rather than things that promote God’s redemptive plan for mankind? What kind of things do you need to lay aside in order to keep your focus on the “main thing”?

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Sowing seed

Paul continues to address the Corinthians regarding the financial support of God’s work in today’s Bible reading. He summarizes his appeal, “The point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 (CSB)

Note that Paul doesn’t use manipulation. He doesn’t twist Scripture to promise health and wealth if the Corinthians would just plant a seed of faith. No, Paul just puts it out there, saying that God will reward generosity with generosity.

Although Corinth was a thriving metropolis when Paul wrote this letter, the citizens must have had a concept of sowing and reaping. If you want a harvest, you have to sow seeds. If you want a bountiful harvest, you have to sow a lot of seeds. Paul tapped into the people’s understanding of agriculture and presented this principle of sowing and reaping.

Application

It’s easy to look at your paycheck and panic when you see how much of the “gross” is taken before you ever see the “net”. Between taxes, Social Security, insurance premiums, it can seem like there’s not enough left over. As the month goes on, sometimes it can seem like the month goes longer than the paycheck.

So where does God fit in the discussion of money? Well, if you’re a growing Christ-follower, God should fit right in the middle of your budgeting. Don’t just give God leftovers. Give Him your best! Give regularly. Give generously. Give sacrificially. And give wisely.

Give, and it will be given to you;
a good measure—pressed down, shaken together,
and running over—will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.
Luke 6:38 (CSB)

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In today’s Bible reading, Paul talks about people supporting his mission work. He says that even in the midst of financial hardship, the Macedonian churches gave out of their poverty to support God’s work. He says, ” I can testify that, according to their ability and even beyond their ability, of their own accord, they begged us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us by God’s will.” 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 (CSB) This reminds me of when Jesus and His Disciples watched people give their tithes and offerings in the Temple in Mark 12:41–44.

Sitting across from the temple treasury, he watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. Summoning his disciples, he said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had—all she had to live on.”

The picture above is from a Facebook group for Small Church Pastors that I belong to. I have never seen anything like this. And I find it gravely offensive on many layers. This is definitely NOT what Paul was talking about in today’s reading. My point is not to get into the pattern of New Testament giving, but to talk about how Paul used the Macedonian churches as an example of how giving is supposed to function.

As I read Scripture, it seems that if God is calling someone to do a ministry, God will provide the funding to support the work. Missionary Hudson Taylor said,

“God’s work, done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

If Taylor was correct — and I believe he was — what does that say about modern-day fund raising to support “God’s work”? I remember many conversations with my dad talking about people “begging for money” on Christian radio and TV. It shouldn’t be this way! Yes, ministries should be up front with their needs. And they may miss a lot of financial support if they don’t ask. And like Paul says, people get in on a blessing when they support God’s work.

But how much of “God’s work” isn’t? That may well explain why so many ministries have to “beg for money”. Maybe it isn’t God’s “big K” Kingdom they’re trying to build, but rather their own “little k” kingdoms.

Paul says that the Macedonian churches begged for the privilege to support God’s work. (2 Corinthians 8:4–5) When Moses collected the Hebrews’ gifts to build the wilderness Tabernacle, the people responded above and beyond the need. Moses responded, “Let no man or woman make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” So the people stopped. The materials were sufficient for them to do all the work. There was more than enough.” Exodus 36:6–7 (CSB)

Application

Let me ask you, when was the last time a church or ministry begged people to stop giving? I never have!

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. Galatians 6:7–10 (CSB)

So how much should you give? That’s a great question! I like what John Piper suggests.

Giving is a way of having what you need. Giving in a regular, disciplined, generous way … is simply good sense in view of the promises of God. [2 Corinthians 9:6] says, “He who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.” Then [2 Corinthians 9:8] says, “God is able to make all grace abound to you that always having all sufficiency . . . ” In other words the “bountiful reaping” promised in verse 6 is explained in verse 8 by God’s pledge to give a sufficiency for us and an abundance for good deeds.

He says elsewhere,

When you get your paycheck, do you look to the Spirit for how to turn this money to best advantage for God’s kingdom, or do you invest it in the field of the flesh for your own private use? Sowing to the Spirit means recognizing where the Spirit aims to produce some luscious fruit for the glory of God and dropping the seed of your resources in there.

One thing to point out: the Corinthians knew Paul and Titus, just as the Macedonians did. They weren’t just sending money to some preacher who may have been a charlatan, frivolously squandering their gifts. There was a sense of accountability by knowing the people they were supporting.

Note: God doesn’t need your money.
But you need to give!

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1 2 3 13

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