Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Heading to Conclave

I have been given a great opportunity to head a ministry conference (of what appears to be especially designed for youth ministry) this weekend. This morning, I am heading out with another college student, and we are going to Atlanta for Conclave 2009. It seems like it is going to be a great weekend filled with worship and great speakers. I do not know what God has in store for the weekend. I do not know what God wants to teach me or show me. But I am expecting to meet with God this weekend. I cannot wait to see what God is going to do.

As I said, we are leaving this morning, about an hour from now. We will be back sometime Sunday night, probably sometime during the Super Bowl. And then it is off to school at the start of next week. This trip will pretty much end my Christmas Break. I will be able to sit around at home on Monday and pack up for a new semester. Then on Tuesday morning, I will head back down to Jackson for the spring semester. Classes will start next Wednesday.

It has been a great break, a great time of rest and fun. There have been some long weeks and some crazy days at work, but at least it was break. It can always seem to get boring at times, but at least there is not a huge load of studying. I will miss those aspects of break. I enjoy sitting around at home doing nothing but reading and playing. But it is now time to dive back into the books and study hard. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for this new semester.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

5. The Pastoral Epistles - 1 Timothy 3:8-13

1 Timothy 3:8-13

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Again, I find it fascinating at how well Scripture always seems to flow from one thought to the next. Continuing off of Paul's warning against false teachers and false doctrines, he now explains how a deacon should act and live. Earlier in this chapter he spoke on the qualifications of pastors. Now he moves on to the deacons of a church, laying out a similar list for them to follow.

First, it is important to understand that although we use this same word "deacon," our meaning could be slightly or drastically different from their meaning. For instance, some scholars do not believe that the men listed in Acts 6 were necessarily what Paul would have referred to as a deacon. And now, 2000 years later, our view of a deacon has possibly changed as well. But despite the inconsistencies that may have arisen over the last 2000 years, we all do share one important view about deacons. Deacons are servants who help lead a congregation. They are primarily in their position to serve.

Now deacons are not the pastors, and most of us would agree with today. Paul has already outlined how a pastor or overseer should act. Now he moves on to the deacons, who help lead alongside the pastor in different ways. Before a deacon can serve, he must be sure that his heart is in line with the teachings of God. If he does not follow God, having a personal relationship with the Lord, then how can he serve God's people?

Paul gives a series of qualifications for a deacon, many similar to what we have already seen for pastors. They must take matters seriously and not take lightly a concern that a church member may have about a certain situation. They are there to serve the church, and they must first be concerned about problems that may arise. They cannot be double-tongued, a gossiper. They must not be addicted to wine, for what kind of example would that set for others? They should never use their office as a deacon to promote financial gain.

Spiritually, deacons must hold to the faith, the Incarnation, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection, etc. He must live a life that shows he believes these things. If he does not preserve the truth about the faith, then again what example is he giving to others? Through testing, others will see how he reacts to life's challenges. Will he hold fast to God to get him through those times or will he falter and crumble through the tests?

Like pastors, a deacon must also live above reproach. He is not the main teacher of the church, for that role is reserved for the pastor. But along with the help of other deacons, he can continue to serve the church and be involved in some form of teaching. Also, deacons should be the husband of one wife, and they should raise their families to live for God. If they cannot direct their family to God and live a Godly life in front of them, then how can they help lead God's church?

There is controversy over who the women are in this passage. I will give you the two views that I saw in the reading, but I feel the important thing about verse 11 is to see how women should act in the church. Some feel that these women are the wives of deacons and suggest that they help alongside their husbands to a certain degree. Others say that these are women deacons, believing that since there was no Greek word for a "deaconess," that Paul intended his use of speaking about women to refer to women deacons. Either way, Paul is clear on how a woman should act in the church. They must be worthy of respect (dignified), not slanderers (double-tongued and gossip), sober-minded (not addicted to wine), and faithful in all things (whatever they may be involved in with their family or church).

It is easy to see chapter 3 and think that this passage does not apply to someone who is neither a pastor nor a deacon. But I feel that is a wrong perspective. All Christians can gain some insight on how to live in 1 Timothy 3. True, these aspects are important for pastors and deacons to follow. These men are leaders of their church, and their example to others is crucial for the growth of the church. They are watched more carefully. However, all Christians are being watched each day. People like to see how we will react to certain situations in life. If we choose to live a life according to 1 Timothy 3, we will be great examples for all that are seeking the truth. They will see Jesus living in us.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wanting Snow - Not Ice

Winter really begins to bug me about this time each year. It is either too cold or unusually warm. Last year, the temperature went back and forth constantly sending severe thunderstorms our way all through January and February. This year we are getting the opposite. We have had ice storms, yet without the snow.

Back in December, West Tennessee had an ice storm that shut down many school systems and cancelled one of our finals in Jackson. We named the storm an"invisible" ice storm because we received none of it in Jackson. But it did affect most of Northwest Tennessee. Now we are in the middle of another ice storm that sent just enough ice to cause problems with people's electricity. All afternoon we have been waiting for the storm to set in, but it still has not come. As the temperature drops tonight I guess we will receive some of that ice. But as of now this storm is shaping up to be "invisible" as well.

But why ice? I do not want ice that weighs down power lines, breaks trees, and causes wrecks. If we are going to have cold weather and precipitation at the same time, then it needs to turn into snow. That is what is fun and does not cause as many problems. So where is the snow? We are told that it is coming, tonight. Maybe it will. All I know is that I want some snow and not ice.

However, this is Winter. Winter is supposed to be cold. There is supposed to be snow and ice. I am just thankful that the temperatures are remaining consistent and are not fluctuating like crazy. Until Spring, I guess we will just endure the cold Winter.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

4. The Pastoral Epistles - 1 Timothy 3:1-7

1 Timothy 3:1-7

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

In my last post on 1 Timothy I said that our lifestyle should match the life we claim to live. If this is true of a Christian how much more important is it for a minister of God to whom many look to for guidance and direction? Such a man is an example to all members of the community, and whether they admit it or not, everyone looks to him and watches how he reacts to certain situations in his life. If he messes up, people are quick to point out his faults and question his beliefs. And when he lives a Godly life before others, people look to him for direction in their lives.

Paul understood the important role such a man of God took on, and he gave a list of qualifications that are helpful for a minister to live by. It is not enough for him to perform all the "duties" that are associated with the position, for he could do these without truly caring for people. But it is important that his life reflects certain spiritual qualifications. There are too many to go into great detail on each one, but they can be grouped into 4 main categories:
  • He must be committed in obedience.
  • He must lead his family well.
  • He must have experience as a Christian, in his walk with Christ.
  • He needs the respect of outsiders (the lost world).

Obedience covers his moral integrity and the ability to teach. These characteristics are self-explanatory. Not violent, quarrelsome, or a lover of money, hospitable (to all people), having self-control, and being temperate. These are all characteristics that should be apparent in his life. If he falters from one of these, people will take notice and point it out.

On the family side, how can a man lead a church congregation if he fails to properly lead his family? How he leads his family will reflect his leadership capabilities and show the church how he will lead the congregation. He must be involved in proper leadership in the home along with direction in the ways of God and a discipline that demands respect. If he can lead his family in these ways, then he will also have the ability to lead the church.

Experience is crucial for the minister. One warning that the commentators pointed out was the danger of pride. Paul was concerned that if a new convert was promoted to such a high office in the church, that they would become prideful and fall into satan's trap. Humility is essential in such a role, and there is a greater danger in promoting a new believer. Also, the minister must have an ability and desire to teach others. Without proper instruction himself, how can he properly lead others in God's word. He should consult his mentors and learn from them well, and a new convert would not have had much time to learn all he could first.

Finally, the minister must earn respect from all people. The life that he lives outside the church must match his beliefs so that his witness is not ruined in the eyes of the lost. A good reputation outside the church will help him avoid the snare of the devil. Attacks from satan will continue to bombard the minister, but when he stands his ground and does not falter, the lost world will take notice. They will recognize his stand and notice how his life parallels his beliefs. This is crucial for the minister, but it is also crucial for the Christian. All Christians are being watched.

These qualifications are extremely important for the minister. And that is why Paul specifically mentioned them in this passage. But these are also great ways for all Christians to live by. Everyone should seek to live a life in such a way. We are being watched constantly. Some people are out there just waiting for one of us to slip up and falter in our beliefs. Be careful, and make sure that your lifestyle matches the life that you claim to live in Christ.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Left Behind Kids: Taken and Pursued

Taken and Pursued are the first 2 compiled books of the hardcover edition of the Left Behind kids series. I noticed the 40 kids books on my bookshelf the other day and a desire to read them again. But instead of speeding through a 100-150 page book constantly, I decided to pull off my hardcover copies of the same books. So I have now begun re-reading the entire series. Each hardcover book compiles 3 or 4 of the original books into 1. And now those same 40 books can be bought and read in 12.
Taken, the first in this series, covers books 1-4: The Vanishings, Second Chance, Through the Flames, and Facing the Future. Judd, Vicki, Lionel, and Ryan stumble upon one another in the most chaotic moment in history, the disappearance of God's people from this earth, which includes many members of their families. With the help of Bruce Barnes, the kids discover the truth and begin to study God's Word for the first time. But these new Christians are facing some of the hardest moments of their life as well. Not only did the disappearances stir up chaos, but they also have living arrangements to deal with as well as the deaths of those left behind.
Pursued continues the story by including books 5-8: Nicolae High, The Underground, Busted, and Death Strike. They get a handle on their faith, and they take a big chance. With the help of some new friends, they head back to school and distribute an "underground" newspaper. With this paper, they spread the truth to their classmates. But as a result, they all face some major consequences. And as you can tell by book 8's title, death once again strikes. And this time, the kids lose someone very close that will change their future in ways that they could have never imagined.
I am currently on the next book, but I will stop right here. I know people have mixed feelings on this series. And I know that you may not particularly care for these books. But for me, these books are my childhood. I began reading these books 11 years ago, and that is hard to believe! In 1998 I read the first 2 books in this series, and I was hooked. I connected so well with the kids because a couple of them were right around my age. And then I grew up with them in the years that followed. It has been great to go back and re-read a series that has meant so much to me in the past.
If you are an adult reading this post, I would not necessarily recommend these books to you. I would encourage you to read the adult series if you are interested. But you may have children in 4th grade or higher. If so, this could be a great series for them to read. And if you never could get them to read before, this may be a help. Each book is small enough to give them a goal to reach. And yet there is enough action to keep anyone interested, wondering what will happen next. I love this series, and have enjoyed looking back on it these past few days.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009 - A New Era

Today was an exciting day for the nation. Barack Obama officially became the 44th president of the United States of America. I was so glad that I got a chance to watch the ceremonies this morning. The support was amazing. There were thousands of people crowding the streets of Washington D.C. Past presidents and vice-presidents were in attendance, including George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. D.C. had to be a crazy place today. It was so great to see everyone coming out onto the stage in a good mood, especially Malia and Sasha Obama. Those 2 girls were excited, and why wouldn't they be? I cannot imagine a 10 and 7 year old watching their father being sworn into the highest office in our country. Despite the turmoil and troubles around us, the country was able to take a break and celebrate a great day, the beginning of a new era.

So maybe President Obama stumbled over his words this morning, but that in itself is not a catastrophe. Plus the man swearing him in was really the one who misplaced the words. But they both laughed it off, continued with the ceremony, and finished with smiling faces. What do the next 4 years hold for our country? Well I cannot give you that answer. What do I think will happen? Honestly, I do not want to guess because there are so many things that could happen. These next 4 years will be a defining moment for all of us as US citizens. Hopefully, one of the first accomplishments will be resolving the economic crisis. But even if that continues for a while, we can still have hope that God will see us through. I trust that President Obama will help us and guide us along through these hard times.

But a new year and a new era have begun. We are setting sail into 2009 with new goals and new dreams. President Obama's life has changed drastically. Malia and Sasha have switched towns and switched schools. Our new first lady, Michelle Obama is adjusting to a new life in the spot light in Washington D.C. And America is facing a new year that could give us hope for the future. I do not know what is on the horizon, but I do know that God is in control, watching over us each day.

May God be with President Obama and his family. May God Bless America.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

NFL Championship Weekend 2009

As I write, the NFC championship is underway, and the Cardinals are back on top as they battle it out with the Eagles. This has been a well fought battle as the Cardinals had the Eagles down, almost giving them the victory by the 3rd Quarter. But the Eagles came back on 19-0 run and went ahead the Cardinals by 1 point. They made a great comeback, but now the Cardinals once again stand on top while the Eagles have the ball. I do not care which team ends up winning this game. I have no problem with either team being in the Superbowl. But I do think it would be neat to see the Eagles come from a 24-6 defecit and reign over the Cardinals. After their performance against the Cowboys and Vikings (2 teams that I do not care for), I would love to see the Eagles go all the way.

In just a few minutes, the Steelers and Ravens will play for the AFC championship. That promises to be a great game as well. It could go either way of course, but I see the Steelers winning out tonight. If that happens and the Eagles end up pulling off this victory, there could be a Pennsylvania Super Bowl. But that is just a bunch of "if's." So we will have to wait and see what happens. There are still 4 teams left in this post season. But in a few short hours we will know who will match up against one another for this year's Super Bowl.

On another note, NASCAR is right around the corner. February 15th is the 51st running of the Daytona 500. The 2009 NASCAR season will be underway. Join in on all the action as another great year of NASCAR begins in less than a month.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

3. The Pastoral Epistles - 1 Timothy 2

1 Timothy 2

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self- control.

2:1-7 As the second chapter picks up, Paul moves from teachings about false teachers and false doctrines to prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. According to MacArthur, here are some ideas of what Paul's explanation about prayer might have been. Prayer is the idea of needing something, an act of worship, and getting involved in while understanding other people's needs. You can see that prayer centers around worshipping God (which should be our first priority). Then, it also centers around others, and many times we forget that aspect of prayer by always praying for ourselves. But Paul does not exclude prayers about ourself. Those help strengthen our relationship with God. But Paul also mentions thanksgiving and encourages us to thank God as well. (See my post about praising and asking).

Paul specifically encourages us to pray for our leaders. He couples this with the idea of praying for all men (not excluding anyone). It does not matter if you do not like the leaders around you, and it does not matter if you like everyone in your life. Paul still encourages us to pray for them. This removes the urge to riot or rebel or cause disputes between one another. When we see everyone as equals and pray for them, we are less likely to get into major arguments with those people. Prayer can help mend hurt and broken relationships. Paul also goes into another look at the Gospel, speaking on Christ died for all men. If Christ cared enough to give His life for them, then who are we to disregard those hurting people and refuse to pray for their salvation? Paul stresses the need to have a heart willing to pray for all men.

2:8-15 He then moves into a discussion that normally centers around men and women's roles in the church. But there is more to this passage than those roles. First off, Paul continues with his discussion on prayer, speaking on how men should pray, again without quarreling. He then moves on to how we are to act in church. He mentions many ways that women can draw attention to themselves (jewelry and clothing), but this can apply to men as well. Paul does not want the focus to be on us in worship and in church. It is about what is on the inside rather than the outside. If we are drawing attention to ourselves rather than God, then are our hearts truly pointed toward Him in worship? Our lifestyle must match the life that we claim to live.

As for a woman's leadership in the church, Paul consistently discourages women from being pastors of the church. This is seen through all of his teachings and all his encounters with women. He does appoint women to other teaching roles. Many New Testament women had minor leadership roles in the church. But the reason that Paul did not permit women to be the sole leader of the church is because they would neglect family responsibilities. The woman was the main leader in the home during the day. She was a wife and mother, and with high priority leadership roles in the church, these other roles in her life would suffer. It is interesting to note that this discussion comes off of a discussion about false teachings. One commentator suggested that some churches might have allowed women to lead them and this was, in a way, a false doctrine or practice that the church had acquired.

Finally, do not think that Paul is picking on women. I believe that this passage applies to both genders. One of the main points we should draw from this passage is the importance of giving all the attention to God. We should be pointing to Him and not to ourselves. Again I ask, does our lifestyle match the life that we claim to live?


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Here I Am

Here I Am by Downhere
Sometimes it just seems like you hear the same message over and over again. Or at least that is the way it is in my life on multiple occasions. A few days ago, I heard this song and really stuck out to me. But I had no idea who sang it, so I had to do some research and figure out the artist. I figured that out and listened to the song several times. Then at church last night, our youth intern read this passage out of Isaiah 6. To top it all off, I heard the song again this morning while I was working. So I have had this song on my mind a lot recently, and maybe it is God trying to tell me or teach me something. Anyways, I wanted to share the lyrics with you.
Sometimes Your calling, comes in dream
Sometimes in comes in the Spirit's breeze
You reach for the deepest hope in me
And call out for the things of eternity
But I'm a man, of dust and stains,
You move in me, so I can say
Here I am, Lord send me
All of my life, I make an offering,
Here I am, Lord send me
Somehow my story is a part of Your plan,
Here I am
When setbacks and failures, and upset plans
Test my faith and leave me with empty hands
Are You not the closest when it's hardest to stand
I know that You will finish what You began
And these broken parts You will redeem
Become the song that I can sing
Overwhelmed by the thought of my weakness
And the fear that I'll fail You in the end
In this mess, I'm just one of the pieces,
I can't put this together but You can
Here I Am, all my life an offering to You, to You
Somehow my story is a part of Your plan
Here I am
We should live our lives in such a way that we are ready to go wherever it is that God is leading, do whatever it is that He wants us to do. All that we do in life should also be an offering up to God. When thinking of life in those terms, it places a different perspective on how we act and what we do. It causes us to think about our actions, considering how holy or unholy they may be. Are we truly living the way Christ would have us live? Does our life give Him a sufficient offering? Either way, we offer Him something with our lives. But what does our offering consist of? Is it a Romans 12:1-2 offering/sacrifice?
Life is full of challenges. Life is full of surprises. But through it all we should always be focused on Him. And we always need to be checking ourselves for what we are giving to God with our lives. May our heart's desire be that of Isaiah when he told the Lord, "Here am I, Send me!"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Random Thoughts of the Day

Global Warming: How real is it? I am not going to get on here and say that it does not exist, because I believe that it does to a certain extent. But I think it is ironic that the country has been going through a recent cold front. Northern states have received double (and some triple) amounts of snow. And almost every state has received below average temperatures in recent weeks. In fact, this week most of the country will be in that situation, with teens stretching down to the southern parts of Alabama and Mississippi. So how real is global warming? As I said, it more than likely exists, but maybe not to the extent that we have always thought. Then again, what do I really know. I am just a college student who is not a scientist. Just my thoughts.

January 20th: The big day is right around the corner. In 1 week we will have a new president in the White House. George W. Bush's terms are coming to an end. Barack Obama will be the 44th president 1 week from today. A new age is dawning for America. It promises to be an exciting time. But even from the start, the challenges are mounting for President-Elect Obama. Of course we are all concerned about the economy, but Obama will encounter those struggles immediately. It is great to see him working hard even now, trying to find a solution to our current problems. That shows leadership on his part, and I have been impressed at his desire to begin work now, rather than waiting until his "official" first day. Next Tuesday will be a historic day.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

2. The Pastoral Epistles - 1 Timothy 1

1 Timothy 1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

Paul begins this first letter to Timothy by acknowledging both the sender and the recipient. Remember, the Pastoral Epistles were written to specific people and not necessarily a large group of people, such as the majority of Paul's other letters. This letter was sent to Timothy to aid Timothy in some problems that were arising in the church at Ephesus. And Paul starts off right away by getting to one of the major problems in Ephesus.

After his common greeting, Paul jumps into his discussion about false teachers and false doctrines that were arising. This is a common topic through all three letters. He urges Timothy to remain in Ephesus so that he can fight against these heresies. He wanted somebody in Ephesus to stand up for the Christian faith, and he knew that Timothy was capable of doing this task. So he encouraged Timothy to overcome his timidity and work hard at standing up for the truth.

Paul then describes what Christians should be like: pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith. Not only is he passing on his teachings to Timothy, but he also wants Timothy to pass these teachings on to those at Ephesus. In the same manner, Timothy needs to encourage the church to live in this manner. When a person neglects to live this way, they drift from the truth, and it can eventually lead to some form of a false teacher. That is what Paul believed had happened to some of the people in Ephesus. Furthermore, these "teachers" never fully understood the law of God. And from their misunderstanding, they developed heresies. Knowledge of God has to be accompanied with moral living. If either is absent in a person's life, they will falter and drift further away from God. And if they are like some of these men, they may even take others with them.

Near the end of the chapter, Paul gives an account of his personal testimony. He shows how he was once a man who was ignorant to his sins. According to Paul he was the worst sinner alive, knowing that he had blasphemed God and persecuted Christians. But he was amazed at how God still saved him despite his faults. He understood the power of God and the power of the Gospel. Through this personal testimony, Paul was encouraging Timothy to let others know that they too can experience this great salvation. God loves saving sinners, bringing more and more glory to Himself. Paul ends his testimony by praising God for all that He had done.

Paul ends the chapter much like he began it. And this reminded me of a term I learned this past semester. I did not know what the Greek text showed, but it appeared to be an "inclusio" in this chapter. That means that some of the same words were used at the beginning and end of a section to mark it off as a section (because they did not have chapter and verse breaks when this text was written). The reason I suspected this was because of Paul's command to Timothy again, his mention of faith and good conscience again, and his warning of those who have drifted. I was pleased to find that someone agreed. One of the commentaries I was reading made a comment about this literary device, and since he has probably studied the Greek text, I take stock in what he said. Not only does this show repetition in the passage (some points that Paul is trying to stress), but it also brackets off this passage as a passage specifically dealing with the dangers of false doctrine and an encouragement to preach against it. It shows how the Christian should live. And this chapter paves the way for the remainder of the book.


Friday, January 9, 2009

January Update

Break is about 3 weeks over now. It will not be much longer until I hit the books again and persevere through what appears to be another tough semester. I am kind of ready for the new semester, but not the work load. The kids have been driving me crazy this past week, and I am getting tired of working. I am ready to go back to studying, which demands less of my time. But I also know that just a few weeks into the semester, I will be tired of that as well. That is the problem in life, it is always hard to find contentment. When it is winter we want summer, and when it is summer we want winter. The same goes for school and break. Why is it that we can never find that contentment in life?

But I am going to try not to take these next few weeks for granted. Before I know it, we will all be back at school. That means less sleep, more work, and longer days. But it also means a lot of fun as we all get back together. Also, I will begin preparing more for our Spring Break mission trip that will be coming up in March. Spring 2009 promises to be another great semester. And it will be here before long.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Blood Lines

Back in May I introduced Mel Odom's NCIS Series. I have since read the third book in the series that was released at the end of December. Odom has produced another suspenseful investigation that once again takes Will Coburn and his team around the world.
Shel McHenry, one of the men on Coburn's investigation team, is faced with a tough situation when he has to kill a man in an investigation. In the process, he is wounded, and the dead man's father declares vengence on Shel's life. What Shel and his Victor Gant do not know at the time is that their family has ties that stretch back into the 1960's in Vietnam. Shel's father and Victor Gant, the father of the man Shel killed had a run in in Vietnam, and now their lives have come full circle to this critical moment. Join Coburn and his team as the investigate Victor Gant's motorcycle gang. From a search for drugs to an investigation about several murder charges, Coburn's team will travel from North Carolina to Texas to Mexico and to Vietnam. What happened in Vietnam that has sparked this cat and mouse game? What ties do the McHenrys and Gants have together? And who really is guilty? These are just some of the questions readers are faced with in Blood Lines.
One of the greatest aspects about these novels is the incorporation of the character's personal lives in the investigation. In previous novels readers have seen some of the problems that Will and Nita have had to face in the midst of their hard work hours at NCIS. They have gone through family struggles and have had to find ways to persevere through life. In Blood Lines Shel has similar issues, but this time his family problems are wrapped up into the investigation. This throws an interesting twist in the novel. So if you have not already begun this series, give it a shot. Each novel is 400+ pages of suspense and mystery.

Monday, January 5, 2009

1. The Pastoral Epistles - Introduction

As the new year begins, I promised that I would begin a new series on this site. So today, I will begin to share with you what God has been teaching me in the first 5 days of 2009. My devotion that I have begun for the new year is my own study through the Pastoral Epistles. 2 Timothy has been one of my favorite books in the Bible for several years now, and I am wanting to not only understand that short letter better, but also study the 2 letters surrounding it that have been historically known as the Pastoral Epistles.

Over the course of the next few months, I will take my time and go through each letter verse by verse. This is not a study that I am wanting to rush through. I am going to take it at a steady pace and consult others who have written on this topic. I am currently using 5 commentaries to aid my studying: 3 of the 5 are John MacArthur's 3 books on the Pastoral Epistles, 1 is the NIV Application Commentary - written by Walter L.Liefeld, and 1 is the New American Commentary - written by Thomas D. Lea and Hayne P. Griffin, Jr.

So today I will begin with a quick introduction to the Pastoral Epistles, and in the coming weeks I will share some of the things that I have learned about the passages themselves. But do not worry, this will not be the only thing that I write on in the coming weeks. I will continue to post my thoughts on a variety of topics and issues throughout the new year.

The Author:
For the common student of the Bible, it would seem ridiculous to ask if Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles. Knowing that the majority of the New Testament books and letters were written by Paul, one would immediately turn to him as the author of these three short letters. But for some reason, people began to suggest that maybe Paul really is not the author of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. And to be quite honest, they seemed to back up their assumption with pretty good evidence. For instance, they speak on his choice of words and comment on how it is different from his other letters. They also disagree with his authorship because Acts does not cover this portion of Paul's life. Others claim that the author speaks heresy in these letters, thus refusing Paul's authorship.

But I must disagree with these claims. Does our basis on Paul's life have to come from Acts? Just because it neglects to mention his latter years and death, are we to believe that he ceased to continue to preach God's Word? Acts is a great history book on the early church, but it does have an end, and the Pastoral Epistles help fill in those missing last years of Paul's life. As for the "heresy," what is heretical about the doctrine of the Trinity, doctrine of salvation, the importance of sound doctrine, the need for Godly leaders in the church? Is this what they claim as heresy? The Pastoral Epistles do speak on different topics, but they are just as important as the topics that Paul mentioned in his other letters. Finally, one reason that all the commentators point out for Paul's shift in vocabulary is that he was writing to individuals and not cities or large groups of people. Also, his subject matter was different in these letters.

The Recipients:
These letters are not written to large groups of people such as the Ephesians or Galatians. Instead they are written to 2 of Paul's "spiritual sons" who were leaders in local churches. They were on missions, sent by Paul to help some churches grow stronger. But they needed some guidance as well in how to combat the growing problems in the churches in which they were serving. For Timothy, he needed to stand his ground, conquer his timidity, and preach against the rising heresies in Ephesus. That was Paul's mission for Timothy, and he gave him practical help in this task. He discusses the importance of knowing what you believe, thus leading to a bold statement of faith before the heretics. Also, if there were any current leaders in the church preaching heretical teachings or living immoral lives apart from God, Paul wanted them replaced. This would provide the congregation with a positive, human, example by which to live.

The Message:
Mentioned above in the previous two sections, Paul's main message was to help in church growth. He was combating heresy. He wanted to help churches in their leadership problems. He wanted to establish good foundations for these churches before persecution really set in for them all. He knew that he would soon be gone, and he was in one sense passing his message on to 2 of his trusted "sons."

The Location:
Timothy - Ephesus
Titus - Island of Crete

Those are some of the things that we are going to look at over the next few months as we take a journey back to the 1st Century and look at the teachings that Paul left with Timothy and Titus.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Football is Over

Football may still be going, but for me, I no longer have a team left in any of the leagues. The Packers never made it into the playoffs, and that was a great disappointment this year. But I guess we can look at this year as a rebuilding year of sorts. Next season may be better now that we have one year of experience after the departure of Favre. But for the '08-'09 season, the Packers are done. So I moved to the Colts for the playoffs. I have followed them some ever since Peyton Manning joined the team, and I thought that they had a good shot at going far this season. But that too came to an end last night when the Chargers knocked them out as well. So now the NFL season is pretty much over for me. I will continue to watch the games, and of course I will be in front of a TV the night of the Super Bowl. But now I am getting ready for next season.

On the college side of things, Tennessee never made it to a bowl game. We had a really rough year that ended in the firing of the head coach. But there is hope for the new year, and maybe the '09 season will be better. The bowl games have been fun to watch these last few days, and I am ready for the National Championship game Thursday night. It should be a pretty good, and hopefully close, game.

Now that football is over, I guess I will shift on over to college basketball. I do not care too much for the NBA, but I have always like to watch college basketball. I have kept up with the Vols these last few months, but now that conference play will be beginning, I will be watching more of their games. And March Madness will be here before we know it!

And in just a little more than a month, NASCAR will resume. I am hoping that this season turns about better than last season for Gordon. The 24 car will have a new paint scheme this year, so hopefully that little change will also help turn the 24 team around for the '09 season. Daytona is only 5 or 6 weeks away now!


Thursday, January 1, 2009


It only seems appropriate to begin the new year with a new book review. Yesterday I finished Ted Dekker's latest novel, Kiss. By the cover and title alone, men may seem cautious in picking this novel up. However, for Dekker fans, this book is a must read. Dekker has teamed up with Erin Healy to bring readers his first novel with a female lead character. In his other works there have been many great female characters, but none could ever be considered as the main character of the novel. In Kiss, Shauna McAllister, grabs readers from the first few pages, and readers follow her thoughts through the ensuing chaos that arises around her.
Not long after we meet Shauna, she is involved in a horrible car accident. As a result of the accident, she loses her memory, and cannot remember the last few months of her life. But is her memory loss a result of the accident or is there something else that has caused this sudden memory loss? Even more surprising, why is she passing out and seeing odd visions at the most random times? Follow Shauna as she tries to piece together those missing months of her life and figure out what exactly happened prior to the accident. This fast paced thriller will keep you guessing until the final chapters.
Ted Dekker is known for his sudden twists and turns that crop up throughout all of his novels. And many times there is one huge twist that shocks readers. This novel has many of those clever twists and turns that will completely mix you up. You may think that you have figured out Shauna and her memory loss problem, but do not get to close to the answer. It is at those times that you will find that you are completely wrong. There is not really that one major twist that the novel could be known for, but to me that did not matter with this novel.
If you enjoy mystery, suspense, and yes even romance, then this Dekker novel may be for you. Kiss is a hard novel to figure out mainly because all that you can know mainly comes through the thoughts of Shauna. At times you will get a perspective from a different character, but the story mainly focuses around Shauna. Because of this, when she makes a wrong assumption, you do as well. And not only does Shauna have a memory lapse, but so does the reader. This Dekker Healy team has developed a great read, and this time next year they will release their second co-authored novel, Burn.