“Life that is Truly Life”

January 20, 2015

LifeTruly_lThe title is a little phrase snatched from the context of the apostle Paul’s concluding statements in a letter he wrote to his young protégé, Timothy the evangelist, who at the time was in the ancient city of Ephesus trying to sort out a mess of a church.

To many people across the world this letter we call 1 Timothy is likely unknown or obscure. Certainly Christians are more familiar with it, but even to many of them this phrase (from 1 Timothy 6:19) is probably not something they often consider.

It is just there in Paul’s instructions to Timothy on what to teach to the wealthy members of the Ephesian church. Apparently, among the other problems facing this infant church, an unhealthy attitude toward money existed.

Reading the immediate context you get the idea those with money were not using it to God’s glory or to further God’s kingdom. Reading the greater context, you get the feeling others in that church were using the church for their personal profit. Either way, it was not good news.

So Paul instructs Timothy to work to redirect some hearts and practices by encouraging them to “take hold of life that is truly life.”

By making this statement Paul is necessarily indicting the “life” being lived by many (rich included) in the Ephesian church. It is a contrast statement. Their (the Ephesians) approach to life was not “truly life.”

That is a fairly bold statement. How would that come across in our culture? Probably as judgmental and unwelcome. We pretty much pride ourselves on making our own way—rugged individualists that we are.

Who is some long dead, dusty old preacher or anyone else, for that matter, to tell me what life is all about?

Yet, if we ever honestly (brutally so) take personal inventory, how is that really going for us? How really is our life?

Contextually Paul shares three points that I think connect to his “truly life” statement.

  • It has to do with contentment. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (6:6) is how he put it. Again, this was a contrasting statement—set up against the confusion; friction; and hurt put upon that church by people who were anything but content. The point? We can have it all, but without a God-laced contented spirit, can we enjoy it?
  • It has to do with hope. Real hope as in something true and meaningful after we are done with this world. This is found in one place- “God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (what a great statement—6:17). Everything else is uncertain and temporary. Which is better to build a life upon?
  • It has to do with helping others along the way. Serving, sharing, being generous—that is part of “truly life” according to this teaching (6:18). Self-absorption; self-consumption; and self-centeredness isn’t.

“Truly life” leads us to “lay up treasures” as a “firm foundation for the coming age.”


So, if Paul is to be believed—“life that is truly life” not only allows us to live now in the abundance of the blessings God has given for us to enjoy, but shapes us to do so with a contented spirit and a generous heart in full certainty of an even better future ahead. And it also helps us to avoid many unpleasant situations, which rob us of peace and joy.

Where can I sign up?

Oh yeah, at the foot of the cross.

“ For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37)


Praise God For A Noisy Church!

November 11, 2013

worship_clipartBabies crying. Loud amens. The rustling of pages turning in Bibles. Singing like you mean it. The warm sounds of hugs and greetings. The sweet laughter of brothers and sisters. The applause of the church celebrating a rebirth. Kids being kids throughout the halls and rooms. It is all pleasing music to the ears of God.

That is why I praise him for noisy churches!

Not irreverent noise. Not noise that purposefully distracts. Not noise made by uninterested folks. But the noise that naturally comes as a result of God’s family coming together to honor him.

Just imagine the absence of the noise. The silence would be disheartening. After all, we come in worship not to mourn, but to celebrate a risen Savior. Listen to what Scripture has to say:

  • Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious. – Psalm 66:1
  • Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth, burst into jubilant song.- Psalm 98:4

Sounds like a noisy situation. It seems worship is about making a little joyful noise. How else could we “burst into jubilant song?”

It is the kind of noise we should welcome. I would rather have babies crying in worship, then somewhere else on Sunday morning. I would rather hear the “amens” and all the other sounds, then the echoes of silence. And if worship is helping to prepare us for heaven, then we should get used to the noise. Heaven sounds like it is anything but quiet.

With winged creatures continually praising God; sounds as thunder rumbling and trumpets blowing; with twenty-four elders singing a new song; with voices numbering “thousands upon ten thousands times ten thousand” all praising God together; it will not be dull! (See Revelation 4-5.)

Could it really be any other way? Being Spirit-filled and having hearts full of thanksgiving, we cannot help but voice our praise to God. It is a natural extension of our relationship with him.

So, I thank God for a noisy church. Where there is noise there is life and I want to be a part of a living church!

How about you?

Could This Happen Here?

August 20, 2013


Reports emerging from the violence that is Egypt right now indicate that Christian homes and Christian churches are being intentionally marked as targets for terrorism (click here and here for details). 

As I sit in the relative safety of my office and peruse news of these events on the other side of the world it gives me pause. First, I feel for anyone in harm’s way. This kind of violence is tragic wherever it takes place. Second, I hurt to see those who profess Christ as Lord being persecuted for their faith. Third, I cannot help but wonder if the same thing could– at some point– happen right here in the heart of the Bible belt.

For, as the United States grows more secular; As religious terrorism spreads globally; it is not only possible, but likely probable.

This is not a welcome thought to consider, but should it really be that shocking? Not if we are familiar with the historical struggle of God’s people:

Dear friends do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)

Perhaps some of the Egyptian Christians currently under fire recall these words of Peter. I hope so because there is more:

But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (vs 13-14)

Yes, the glory God promises far out weighs the terror the world holds– this is a consistent and comforting biblical theme.

But it is one thing to acknowledge it and another to live it. Some in Egypt are living it. Please pray continually for them.

Include our nation in those prayers too. Egypt is not as far away from us as it used to be.

Lord come quickly!

The Apocalypse, Tornadoes, and Global Warming

May 26, 2011

As you know, the end of the world has been major media fodder for the last couple of weeks.  Harold Camping’s apocalyptic predictions along with the tragic rash of tornadoes have dominated the news. Some have speculated that there is a connection- that the violent weather is some kind of sign of end times and that we contributed to this string of deadly storms by aiding (through our growing carbon “footprint”) in climate warming.

Quite a bit to digest there.

The first part of this (the apocalypse) is not too difficult to sort through. As a believer in God and in the inspiration of Scripture I will trust God on this one. According to his Word only he knows when Christ will return and begin God’s plans for the end of times as we know them (Mark 13:32). Really, there are no definitive signs to clue us in on when this might be. The langauge many use to try to identify signs in Matthew 24 is mostly connected to an event already in the history books- that is the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Roman military in approximately 70 A.D. (Read the text. How is running to the hills going to help if the world is ending? What difference does it make if a woman is pregnant or what season of the year it occurs?) So, neither Mr. Camping, the apostle Paul (who thought Christ would return in his lifetime) or anyone else can accurately predict when Christ returns. He will come as a thief in the night (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

As for violent weather being a predictor of end times- again there is no such evidence in Scripture of this. Deadly storms are nothing new to history. Unfortunately they are a part of our fallen creation. According to the Bible our earth has been under a “curse” since the banishment of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:17). From a biblical perspective tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, etc. are a part of  a suffering creation.  A creation that according to Paul now “groans” and “was subjected to frustration,” but now eagerly waits for the time it will be “liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (See Romans 8:18-25).  This time will come when the new heaven and new earth is ushered in by Christ (Revelation 21:1-4; 2 Peter 3:1-13), but no where does Scripture indicate that weather will predict when this will happen.

Concerning global warming- well, who knows for sure, but God? Maybe we are contributing to an increase in violent weather by not being ecologically responsible or maybe we are not. Certainly there are facts, stats, and valid debate from both sides. I do believe that from a biblical perspective that we as believers have been called to not abuse the earth God has gifted us (see this post), but I am not sure any of us are smart enough to have all of the answers on this. I think back to what God told Job:

Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid out the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand who marked off it dimensions?… Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain and a path for the thunderstorm?… Does the rain have a father?… Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?  (Job 38:1-35)

Granted most unbelievers (and many believers) now view Job as more myth than reality, but I still believe. I believe that even with apocalyptic predictions and tragic weather and climate change and my own human weakness and failings- God is in control.

I believe he loves us all- every one of us and continues to work his redemptive will being very patient with us in our weakness because he so much desires all of us to find rescue in him (2 Peter 3:9). I believe that one day, the trump will sound, the clouds will part and the brilliance of Christ will emerge and all will be made right and wonderful. We will not have to be concerned then about storms or global warming. Oh glorious day!

So in all of the death, destruction, pain and confusion of storms (please keep praying for those affected) and in all of the climate debate and failed apocalyptic predictions- just keep faithfully hoping and praying- Come, Lord Jesus!

“Haste the Day When My Faith Shall Be Sight”

April 8, 2011

Death has visited us at Gateway. Two brothers- both amazing men- have gone to be with the Lord. They are asleep- at rest from the diseases that slowly ravished their bodies. I praise God for that. While they will missed greatly it is better for them that they went home.

Oscar Bell (along with his wife Lucy) was a trailblazer in racial integration among Churches of Christ in Pensacola. If you knew Oscar, you would not be surprised at this. This gracious brother quietly made lasting impacts across two continents in his long military career.

David Jordan was the definition of a servant. He spent his life serving God, his family, the hurting and his country. David survived (and helped dozens of others to do so) an Amtrak train accident in Mobile Bay. Later he served the devastated people of Pascagoula, MS after Hurricane Katrina as a key man “on the ground” for the relief efforts of the Central Church of Christ. (John Dobbs writes about David’s work).

Sunday (April 10th) at Gateway the sermon focus will be on the resurrection followed by a related sermon on Easter Sunday about heaven. Oscar and David are learning more about this right now then I will be able to share. But I can imagine.

MercyMe sings a deeply moving song entitled I Can Only Imagine. (posted below) It lifts me up to God’s throne every time I hear it. As I mature I find myself thinking more frequently about the things Oscar and David are now realizing. Then I think about another song.

It is Well with My Soul is an old standard that has touched generations. There is a phrase in this song that has become much more meaningful to me- Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight. Right now (to paraphrase the apostle Paul) I can only see darkly, but one day I will see God face-to-face. This will be the day when faith becomes sight- when all I’ve hoped and lived for and struggled to know becomes reality.  Lord haste that day!

I think Oscar, David and a whole host of others will be there- waiting and grinning. 

As for now though, I can only just imagine.