Hebrews Chapter 1

As a Christian I am always wrestling to comprehend the trinity… “God in three persons blessed trinity” as the famous hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” proclaims. 

Here in Hebrews chapter 1 of the new testament the author gives us some insight into the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  He actually recites verses from the old testament and from the new testament where God the Father speaks of his Son.  Verses 8 and 9 particularly caught my attention where I believe God the Father refers to Jesus as God, “therefore O’ God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than anyone else”.  Over the years I have grown to appreciate that without God in three persons I likely would not know God at all.  That it takes all three to reach me.  I love the emphasis that Catholic Christians put on the trinity, crossing themselves in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

But as with the new testament in its’ entirety and possibly the bible in its’ entirety, I see this chapter as God the Father glorifying Jesus, God the Son.

Philemon

Philemon is one of the shortest books in the Bible, and often overlooked (at least by me).  It is easy to miss the significance of this letter, but there is a lot going on in these 25 verses!  One commentary I read suggested that this little letter is a “brilliant affirmation of Christian ethics” and “altered humanity’s attitude toward the institution of slavery” more than any other document.   Wow, and all that in 25 verses!

The context of this letter is Paul writing to a beloved co-worker Philemon on behalf of a runaway slave Onesimus. Philemon was an early convert of Paul and likely a man of means as a church in Colossae met in his home and he owned slaves.  Onesimus was his slave who ran away and perhaps even stole money from Philemon. Through God’s providence, Onesimus meets Paul in Rome and becomes a Christian.  Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon to set things right, and makes a bold request for his freedom.

A couple takeaways from this letter for me:

1.    Paul models leadership rooted in love and friendship instead of power and authority. Although he could have demanded Philemon do the right thing, he preferred to simply ask because of their love.  In pursuing the right thing, Paul makes sure he doesn’t hurt Philemon in the process.  He is bold in his request for sure, but Paul demonstrates that how we do things as Christians is very important.

2.    Onesimus models courage and obedience.  Perhaps through Paul’s guidance, he knew he had to set things right with Philemon.  However, as a slave, he could have been treated very harshly upon his return.  Despite the unknown consequences in front of him, Onesimus sets out to return to Philemon to make things right.  That is what Christians do.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul tells us that we are ambassadors for Christ, given a wonderful ministry of reconciliation.  I feel like Philemon is a window into what this ministry of reconciliation looks like in real life.  In this letter, Paul is faithfully practicing what he preaches.  Onesimus has been reconciled to God through Christ, and now he is being reconciled with his former owner Philemon.  And all of this is being done in and through love.

Although we don’t know how Philemon responded, I feel confident that he responded by doing the right thing.  The name Philemon means “affectionate” or “kiss” in Greek.  He loved the people of God and was likely a generous man. Someday we will find out how he actually responded, and I look forward with anticipation to hearing how Philemon completed the ministry of reconciliation by forgiving Onesimus and welcoming him back as a brother in Christ.

Titus Chapter 3

Have you ever said or done something only to regret it later? I remember when I was 11 or 12, riding the bus to the mall. Excited to meet my friend so we can shop for new clothes and grab a bite to eat. As I was sitting on the bus, minding my own business, I noticed an elderly lady staring at me. When our eyes met, she asked me, “hablas espanol” (do you speak Spanish)? I was stunned that she was even talking to me. That I answered her quickly, with a flat out “NO”. To this day I have no idea why I said no. I knew in my heart that I should have said yes, or just spoke to her in Spanish. I remember thinking to myself, just say something. Instead I just sat there, in silence, looking out the window. I must admit I regretted my actions because I knew in my heart I should have said yes. Who knows maybe she needed help or just wanted someone to talk with. Instead I didn’t want to be bothered. I was thinking about me. I knew better and I should have done the right thing. To this day, if I sense someone speaks Spanish, I will automatically speak Spanish and am willing to help.  

This chapter was a hard one for me, perhaps because it seems so simple. Paul’s message to us as followers of Christ is clear, we are to help guide and remind other believers of what is right and how we should act in the world. I believe Paul is asking us to be like Jesus in the world, to allow Christ who lives in our hearts to shine through us. We are not of the this world, rather we live in the world to be an example to the non believer. The bible tells us we are to shed our old ways and through His sovereign grace we put on a new heart, have new truth, making us a different person. Paul is intentional and direct in what we are to do. We are to be humble and kind. Verses 3, 4 & 5 speak volumes to me, “3 Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. 4 But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit” 

The world tells us that its all about me. That I should feel good, I’m number one. The fast track is the way to go. A bigger, house, a better job and more money are the status we need and want. What is on the outside is what matters, but is it? In other words, we are constantly being bombarded with false messages that promise satisfaction with pleasures far from God. Satan is crafty that way. When in truth it’s our humility, gentleness that matter. It’s remembering that I am far from perfect and that I am a sinner who by God’s grace that I have been saved through Jesus. This chapter is our reminder that we who are followers of Christ, have rules to follow, its not what we do that is right, rather its like verse 7 says, “Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. 

Titus Chapter 2

Following Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment, he and Titus worked briefly together in Crete, after which he commissioned Titus to remain there as his representative and complete some needed work.  Crete at the time had sunk to a deplorable moral level.  The dishonesty, gluttony and laziness of its inhabitants were epic.  Paul’s letter to Titus was to give him authorization and guidance in meeting opposition, instructions about faith and conduct, and warnings about false teachers.  

In chapter 2 Paul instructs Titus what must be taught to the various groups.

To older men he should teach that they should be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love, and endurance.

To older women he should teach them to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  So they in turn can train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands.

To younger men he should encourage them to be self-controlled, and set a good example by doing what is good.

To slaves he should teach them to be subject to their masters in everything, try to please them, not talk back and steal, but show that they can be fully trusted.

He finishes the chapter with verse 15.  “These, then, are the things you should teach.  Encourage and rebuke with all authority.  Do not let anyone despise you.”  Sometimes easier said than done.

Be Blessed!

Titus Chapter 1

Reading Titus 1 in my Bible, the first bold headline is “Appointing Elders Who Love What Is Good.” So I stopped and looked up our elders on our website just to be sure I wasn’t overlooking any in my mind. And I can say I know, love, and trust each and every one of them! And they do love what is good! They don’t take shortcuts or do what is easy or seek man’s approval. They seek after God and His good and perfect will. The interactions I have with them are sweet and caring. And I am so grateful!

Sadly, it is not always that way in the church. I’m part of a Facebook youth pastors’ group and the things I read are discouraging at times with the lack of support other staff people receive in their churches. Making it a hard and lonely walk in ministry. 

But if you are part of Church of the Chimes, be encouraged! Our elders hold fast to verses 5–9! And they do operate as the managers of God’s household and know they answer to Him. We are blessed!

2 Timothy Chapter 4

6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  2 Timothy 4

As I sit to write this, the loss of my grandmother is very fresh. She was the first person in my family, who passed away in the faith. As I reflected on her life, Paul’s words, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, apply to her life as well. After her passing, the family learned of the countless people of all ages my grandmother poured her life into. She opened her home to the homeless, started a garden ministry in an elementary school, was the head deaconess for many years, she helped addicts get into treatment, and there was much, much, more. 

My grandmother’s life is an inspiration to me, I also want to finish well and keep the faith. However, the true inspiration is a life transformed by Christ. My grandmother (like all of us) was a very flawed person. There were many struggles throughout the years, especially when it came to familial relationships. It was the Holy Spirit’s work within her that enabled all the good works and the mending of relations before her passing.

This verse is a reminder to me that by keeping the faith, God will continue to transform the very flawed person I am, to become more and more like Him, and finish the race well. In a paraphrase of Philippians 1:6, I can be confident that God will continue His good work in me until the day for my departure.

2 Timothy Chapter 3

It's not hard to read today's opening paragraphs and find strong correlations between Paul's assertions to Timothy about the end times within the culture in which we are now live.

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. 

What does the Holy Spirit bring to your mind with the statement above “having a form of godliness but denying its power”? Take a minute and ponder this.

Throughout my life I have been witness to many powerful moves of God and EVERY time, the result was worship and people surrendering their lives to Christ. Without fail, when God moves in power there is an undeniable presence of His holiness. 

My heart longs to see more of this in the body of Christ today. The world needs Christians to live in and be conduits of the power of God.

Spending time in the Holy Scriptures is one way we learn the truth and gather the wisdom to walk in Gods power. Paul gives a strong encouragement to Timothy (and us as believers) us to dive into it, memorize and learn its truth.

My prayer is that we would be a people who long to live life in the power of God. That we would see wondrous displays of His power through healing and miracles that all eyes and hearts would turn to Him. That we would be humble, always learning and able to understand the truth, because our love God is displayed through the way we live our lives.

Amen 

2 Timothy Chapter 2

I love the first part of this chapter.  As I sit here and read, I feel my heart rate increasing. I am pretty sure that it’s not due to my coffee but rather the text.  Paul is speaking my language.  It feels like a scene from a good action movie.  He talks about war and athletes, Triumph and failure.  

Even though this was not the circumstance, as I read I found myself imagining Paul pacing back and forth as his followers stood at attention thinking about the task ahead.  I imagined Paul raising his voice much like that of an army commander pumping up his troops as they prepare for battle. I pictured a scene from a move like Braveheart or Gladiator with Mel Gibson or Russel Crowe getting his men ready for battle. 

Paul in this chapter is pushing us.  He is pushing us to the end.  He encourages us to push through to completion.  In verse 11 to 13 he writes, “If we died with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us. If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.” We must live knowing that everything we have, everything we have accomplished is worthless unless it is found in Him.  

2 Timothy Chapter 1

For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. 

 We are reminded in Paul’s second letter to Timothy of the impact that a legacy of belief and faith has on those we are close to.  Timothy’s mother and grandmother were faithful disciples of Jesus.  The sincerity of their faith was so evident that it had molded Timothy’s view of life, and his purpose in that life.  I often think of how my faith is evidenced to my children.  Do they see the “sincerity” of my devotion to Jesus?  Or is it, (or He) a rarely discussed topic I hope somehow seeps into their consciousness over time?

I think of the passage in Deuteronomy where Moses is encouraging the parents of Israel:

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 Nothing is more important in my life than Jesus. Education, wealth, career advice, “happiness” --  these things all pale in significance when compared to leaving my sons and daughters a legacy of faith in Jesus.  

1 Timothy Chapter 6

Our world measures success by material things. We have not made it until we have settled in our dream home or have a certain amount in savings or investments, or whatever you want to fill in the blank.  We can get wrapped up in thinking we are able to sustain ourselves.  This chapter reminds us where our heart should be with finances and with the things we have been blessed with. God has provided for us and has given everything we own to us. He has blessed us but wants us to bless others so we can proclaim who the ultimate Provider is.  This chapter also reminds us that hope in money is fickle but God is not. God is able to do all things and He wants us to yearn for, seek after, and rest in relationship with Him. He wants us to realize that we can be content in all things, because of who He is and what He is capable of. Let us be thankful for the blessings we have in our life, trusting in His provision, and willing to share that which we have already received.