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Posts Tagged ‘Timothy’

In several places Paul tells his followers to trust his message because his very life is a testament to his faith. In today’s world, there are those we know and have known, whether they are friends or family, and because we know them, we trust them. Or do we?

II Timothy 3:14
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, . . .

Trust is a funny thing. It can be taken for granted or it can be nurtured consciously and strengthened over time. The longer and deeper I know someone, the more likely I am to discern whether he/she is trust “worthy.” Relationships are built on trust because people must be transparent to be trusted. Without transparency, the foundations of a relationship are built on sand. And yet, despite, weeks or months or years of building trust, it can be broken with a single word, a single act, a single observation.

As soon as mistrust raises its unholy head, there’s hell to pay. Rebuilding trust after a betrayal (whether perceived or real) takes longer than the first time around. We place the other under the microscope and we find additional reasons to “not” trust. We look for the lie. We look for the secrets. We expect the worst.

I believe this “breaking of trust” moment must be examined carefully and weighed against knowledge and familiarity and love.

In the past week, I have seen three relationships within my immediate family ripped apart (possibly in a permanent way) because of broken trust. Somehow, whatever was known about each other before that moment came, was not enough to stay the doubt and suspicion, to balance the scale of possibilities, to hold the cracks together. Whether it’s teenagers falling in and out love or mature adults running from the possibility of being hurt yet again, the process is the same and one or the other says, “I don’t believe you.”

And then, on top of that, in a public forum, I witnessed palpable abusiveness and accusations because of a perceived certainty that trust was broken. I wanted to stand up and yell, “Stop! You’re talking about my friend, you’re calling into question the integrity of someone I have known for twenty years.” I trust my friend. I trust my friend’s intentions. And it hurt me to watch the bubbling cauldron of bitterness and rejection. The words were different, but it sounded the same, “I don’t believe you.”

And that’s when I saw it, this moment of decision, to stand by what has been shared and spoken before, to remember the conviviality and the good intentions, to hold fast to the history. . . or not.

Paul tells Timothy to trust in the truth of what he has learned from his mentor, from his friends, and from his family. This is Paul’s last letter to his protege. Many, many people attacked Paul in the same way that the authorities attacked Jesus. They called them liars, fakes, and charlatans. They called them destroyers and divisive elements in the faith.

Who will we choose to trust in that moment when the vase is about to shatter? Who will we believe?

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Mortimer's First Garden

While some folks may focus in on the correct/rebuke others portion of this verse, I’m much more drawn to the idea of talking, sharing with people with “great patience.” With patience as the umbrella, even a correction would be done with utmost concern and gentleness. That makes sense.

II Timothy 4:2
Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

I hate “sparring” about verses in the Bible. Face it, there are tons of people who know the scriptures a lot better than I do and they have committed themselves to memorizing hunks of useful phrases, ready to debunk (correct/rebuke) and possibly even “expose” me and my understanding or interpretation of the words. I don’t go there anymore.

But I’m thinking today that “preach the Word” may actually mean “preach Jesus” moreso than expound on scriptures. For me, that means to speak about Jesus and his life, to explain the concept of a Christ in this world, to share the impact of Jesus and His Holy Spirit within me, to give the gift of what I personally know. When I add the words from scripture to my personal story, when I share how those words helped me understand the truth of the Christ in my life, then it’s a package of love. I am not a leader/teacher/preacher. I am no Timothy. I am just a follower of that Way.

But, what is preaching? Is it part of my role at all? Is it just proclaiming, teaching, exhorting, advocating, and admonishing or can it be all of these things? When I purposefully add “patience” to any of these definitions, the tenor of the words is much softened. It’s more like explaining or story-telling to a child, spoken with patience and even love. It’s not self-edifying, it’s not deprecating or sanctimonious. It’s not screaming or challenging. It’s not clever. That other kind of preaching/teaching is incompatible with patience, or at least, in my mind, they are not easily partnered together.

Jesus is patient; has been and will be throughout time. God is patient. Love is patient.

The other day, I read a cute story to some kids at the library in which Mortimer the mouse planted a seed and was quite disgruntled the next day when there was nothing to show for it. We all know that seeds take time to sprout. Why aren’t we as loving and patient with the Word?

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Art by Ed Unitsky

What does the Godly life look like? And why would it be, that a person who is following in the way of Jesus, living out righteous, faith, love and peace, why would that cause persecution? It’s another type of contradiction.

II Timothy 3:12
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, . . .

I have seen people hold this scripture up as a banner when their particular political cause or moral stand is shot down or watered down or disregarded in some way. Some people have a litmus test like abortion or birth control or the death penalty or gay rights, and anything outside of their view is perceived as persecution: “right” being attacked by some liberal/left point of view.

There is one sect of believers who are known for door-to-door evangelism to the extreme and if people are rude to them or shut a door in their faces, they report that “persecution” to the team-faithful. It’s to be expected they say; they are living the life.

But where do we see anything like this in the life of Jesus? Our Man/God was so comfortable in his skin that He could be anywhere and talk with anyone without harsh judgments. The truth was in Him, the Spirit close by and available, the ability to love and connect with everyone was apparent. His persecution came later.

His persecution did not really begin until he revealed his identity, an identity that challenged the traditions of authority.

The poor did not persecute Jesus nor did self-professed sinners. The hungry and the needy did not persecute Jesus. Only those who had an agenda that was jeopardized by the long-awaited appearance of a Messiah who would turn their world upside down. Actually, even the Romans did not persecute Jesus until He was dumped into their legal system.

Living the life is more like the first thirty years of Jesus’s life — the silent years. Did Jesus love less in those years than he did in his public ministry? Did he care less, speak less, understand less? Or did he wake each day with the Shema Yisrael and with mindfulness toward the presence of God, and thereby simply live and serve his immediate world.

So, is there persecution in my life? And if there isn’t any, does that mean I am not living a Godly life? Am I too homogenized into the cares of this world? Am I holding on too tightly to my comforts?

Oh, I suppose I could take a political stand about this or that; I could march in the streets for one cause or another, but in the end, I would still come home to my middle class life, my credit cards, and my steak on the grill.

The chorus of the song below was framed and given to me many years ago and, in its simplicity, this is the only way I can see how to “live the life” right now, today.

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When Paul describes “these people” with a long list of attributes, I think we forget that the list needs to hold together in its totality, not pointing fingers at folks who may demonstrate one or two or even a few similarities. This full list is someone wholly trapped. And apparently, the worst version of this kind of person is one who “teaches” this way to others.

II Timothy 3:6a, 8
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women [or men] . . . Just as Jannes and Jambres [traditionally believed to be Egyptian magicians] opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men [or women] of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.

Let’s review the list of behaviors or attributes:

  • 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
  • [II Tim 3:1-4]

This is a comprehensive list and not one to treat lightly. I don’t know anyone like this in my world. I just don’t . . . or do I? Of course, I know people who are rash sometimes or conceited, I even know people who act with no self-control and they can boast or be unforgiving, and certainly I know tons of young people who are disobedient to their parents. But none of my acquaintances fall into the morass of the list as a whole. Do they?

But we are warned here that there are people like this. And because there are, we need to be wary because this description is not necessarily of the terrorist or the killer or the drug lord. This array is about secret sins. This catalog describes someone whose internal life has been ground up and rearranged. This person is living a lie.

It’s one of the reasons why Paul specifically says, “They are the kind who worm their way into homes. . . ” [vs 5]. This person is a chameleon who adapts to the environment, cunning and crafty.

I’m not even sure, such a person is conscious of it, but instead, justifies all choices with a sense of self-righteousness and entitlement.

And yet, my greatest defense remains the same: right living, faith in God, love of others, and the making of peace.

Lord, give me wisdom and discernment. Protect me, my family, my community, my nation, my world.

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Most of my understanding of the nature of God is downright murky; how much less my understanding of that opposite force/entity: the Devil? And yet, I see the consequences of evil everywhere, even prevalent. How do I still get trapped?

II Timothy 2:25-26
You never know how or when God might sober them up with a change of heart and a turning to the truth, enabling them to escape the Devil’s trap, where they are caught and held captive, forced to run his errands.
[The Message]

What is the trap of the devil anyway? I’d say it has more to do with a state of the mind than anything else. After all, it’s in the mind that I make decisions, that I initiate my actions. I choose inside the mind. So, I confess, some “traps” I choose. I choose to judge others; I choose to gossip; I choose to sin. Like any woman on a perpetual diet, I still eat the wrong foods and exercise little. I perpetuate my condition.

Now, that’s not to say that some traps don’t catch me off guard too. Like a mousetrap, that is laden with scrumptious cheese. It looks so good. It looks so harmless. I am presented with such snares in the media and while shopping: buy, buy, buy. I am offered credit cards with “cheap” interest. I am told I can afford a much bigger house than I thought. I am encouraged to upgrade everything and anything. Super size it!

And what about the gambit that slowly bewitches me if I am not watchful, like the little frog in the pot of water, getting hotter and hotter? Will I jump out in time? Not always. I become desensitized. I no longer notice the brutal lyrics, the foul language, the abusive behaviors. I am able to watch tsunami scenes and it’s like watching a Hollywood movie, all unreal. “How sad,” I say, “how tragic,” and then I blend up my smoothie or pour a glass of Pinot Noir and watch a DVD to get away from the news.

They say that people who are abducted actually begin to attach to their abductors. Their limited lives develop a pattern, a norm, and slowly, the whole idea of escape is numbed out of them. Isn’t this the most insidious trap of all?

And if I get trapped, so can anyone else. When I’m caught up in a web, it means so much when someone reaches out to me, tells me to “watch out” before I step on the trigger, helps me climb out of the pot of water, gives me clarity where I can no longer see, and draws me into truth with love.

No one likes being slapped across the head like an idiot and told to “wake up! You’re deluded.” No one likes to discover they’ve been fooled or tricked.

The people who have made a difference in my life are the ones who were consistent and patient; those who were authentic in their faith and transparent in their sharing of self.

This is my goal as a follower of the Christ today. This is the role that makes it possible to change a path, to walk beside, to love, to stay out of traps by walking the road corporately.

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It’s the verbs and they all say the same thing: persist, persevere, adhere, apply oneself, carry on, conduct, continue, cultivate, engage in, hold to, keep on, maintain, perform, ply, practice, proceed, prosecute, see through, tackle, work at . . . This is Christ-based engagement.

II Timothy 2:22b
. . . pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Righteousness, faith, love and peace are the foundations of our faith walk (and if we were honest about it, these are roots to most faiths in the matter of behaviors). They are essential to “human.” If I could live out righteousness (and I love how the Amplified defines this: “all that is virtuous and good, right living, conformity to the will of God in thought, word, and deed”), build my faith (and trust) in a truly sovereign God, love others as the sacred souls they are, and promote peace in my circle of influence, my world would be different. I would be a change agent and like a pebble thrown into a pond, the circle would expand.

Influence comes out of authentic living in the Christ.

But all of this kind of talk is so general, it’s a concept, it’s knowledge, but what will it look like today? When I enter the “prayer of examen” (as Richard Foster writes in his book, Prayer), will I recognize the words and actions of any of these four pillars? Can I be more mindful today that I was yesterday or the day before? Can I be conscious in my choices?

Each day, I spend time in confession, asking God to forgive me my missteps, my harsh words, my judgmental thoughts. But, can I as well, give thanks for those other times, those times I actually connected with the Holy Spirit in a viable and observable way? That would be a good thing.

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Separating myself from “corrupting influences” is not so easy. It’s a matter of degree, that difference between good, better & best. In some areas, I have been successful and on occasion, I have been blessed and used in a powerful way but it’s an erratic arrangement.

II Timothy 2:21
So whoever cleanses himself/herself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself/herself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself/herself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work.
[Amplified]

Some of this “separation” feels too strict and legalistic, like those Pharisaical laws that disallowed touching contaminated things without all kinds of ceremonial washings and waiting times. It smacks of the story that Jesus told about the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37] who broke all kinds of laws to minister to an injured and “unclean” man. There are contemporary versions of this, various religious sects that will not allow people of differing beliefs to sit at table or to share in communion or other sacred acts.

And so I manage to excuse or validate some of my choices in the name of freedom. But it can be a slippery slope, I know.

I think it’s important to recognize the value of single-minded piety, as long as it is also lived with grace and generosity toward others who do not live in the same way. That kind of life does indeed prepare the mind and soul for greater challenges of faith. There are other hints to this concept like Paul’s references to the athletes who prepare hard for the race, who practice their craft diligently, who commit their energies toward attaining a particular goal.

In earlier years of my faith journey, I have somewhat foolishly asked God to drop gifts and signs on me, to use me as that intermediary for healing or miracles. And yes, it’s true that these are gifts; it’s possible that God, for the sake of the moment, might grant such experiences. But for the long haul? I think it’s the warriors of faith, the ones who don’t necessarily shy away from “corruptions” and “contaminations,” they simply don’t have time or interest there. It’s a non-issue.

If I am in a time of prayer and meditation, I am not watching the unenlightening television show or browsing the Internet for inappropriate content. My “self” is elsewhere engaged.

It all boils down to this for me: to be used for “noble purpose” is part and parcel of my daily life, how I manage the little things [Luke 16:10a]. Thanks be to God.

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