Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Sword Drill: 1 Timothy

Incredibly, for the first time in a very very long time, I have just read (or been read) a whole book! Admittedly 1 Timothy isn't long, a mere 6 chapters, but I really would have struggled to read it. However, whilst I listened to the lovely man read it I actually spent most of the time reading along, even pausing him sometimes to read back over passages. I think this really works for me!

Passage is: 1 Timothy 1-6
SAYsoaps Day 238


As with a lot of Paul's letters to individuals, we have almost a complete set of instructions on starting (or in modern parlance "planting") a church (read a local group of believers) and them guiding through an initial period of growth - this was, of course, Paul's speciality.

Two important concepts come up right at the beginning and repeat throughout the letter: true teaching and love. "stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work— which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1:3-5, all quotes NIV unless otherwise stated) Again, "I give you this instruction... so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience" (1:18-19)

Instruction on worship is always good, so "first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone" (2:1) and Paul really does mean everyone (the kings and rulers of most people he was talking to were the Romans, including Emporer Nero). Why? "Christ Jesus... gave himself as a ransom for all men" (2:5-6, emphasis added) Paul gives another useful lesson in personal devotion and public worship later: "devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." (4:13)

I'm really struggling with the passages about women in 2:11-15. It just doesn't seem to fit with anything else I've ever seen or heard... I'll have to look into this more and then perhaps I'll get back to you.

Next Paul goes on to instruct Timothy in how to choose leaders. As I understand it, Overseers are people who oversee Deacons and Deacons lead a group of believers. So we're talking Bishops and Priests or DCs and COs... I think... To be honest, Paul doesn't expect much more from one than the other. Importantly, what he's asking should be possible of all leaders and indeed all believers: "be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well" (3:2-4)

On the subject of leaders, Paul also says something useful later on - this time not about selecting them, but about how Timothy should deal with them: "Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning." (5:19-20) If the elders are to be above reproach and respectable, a single accusation will likely be an attempt to damage their name, but more than 1 should be investigated. When it comes to rebuking elders publicly, the Church (and I'm thinking particularly about The Salvation Army) has been particularly bad at this, preferring to brush it under the carpet lest the reputation be ruined. Perhaps it's time to deal with it?

Chapter 5 is jam packed with instructions about all sorts of things and Pauls instructions about widows fascinate me. I think, in summary, he's saying: "concentrate on helping those that no one else can/will help". Importantly, Paul says to Timothy "keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism" (5:21) Treat everyone the same, all the elders, treat them the same, all the widows, treat them the same - but the same goes for people he hasn't mentioned, be impartial. Add to that the key aspects of true teaching and love and we have a fair and structured and well taught group of believers.

Chapter 6, again, is almost just a collection of sentences of wisdom, each relating to something different: not least the concepts of good and faithful service (whatever our circumstances) and the important matter of money (don't love it, and if you have it don't rely on it).

Finally, in closing, some good advice to us all "guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith" (6:20-21)


Here's the key stuff I'm taking from this:
  • Love
  • Keep focused on good teaching
  • Be a source of good teaching
  • Worship
  • Be focused on the word
  • Be impartial
  • Don't love money
  • Be above reproach
  • "set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" (4:12)
  • Fight the good fight

Father God, thank you for the wisdom and teaching contained in the scriptures. Help me to be a wise and faithful servant, loving all and showing impartiality towards all your people. Keep me ever focused on your word, listening to sound teaching and avoiding false gospel. Help me to be an example, help me to be above reproach. Help me not to be a lover of money, or to depend on it too much. I ask all these things in and through the name of Jesus. AMEN!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Sword Drill: Proverbs 4-7

The first of my Sword Drill blogs! hoorah! I've actually restarted some decent Bible study!

Passage is: Proverbs 4-7
SAYsoaps Day 237


I have to say, it's really fascinating how Solomon tries to drum it home to the reader/listener. You can imagine an older man saying "listen to what I say, avoid other peoples mistakes, live a life of wisdom". Wisdom, according to Solomon, springs from the father - if this logic was followed we'd be extremely wise by now, but unfortunately children sometimes need to or want to make their own mistakes, or perhaps this is a human flaw. Still, we can learn much from someone older and wiser than ourselves and this book is no different.

We learn a little about what it is to be wise and where wisdom comes from:
"Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding" (4:4-7, all quotes NIV unless stated)
Question: should we pursue wisdom at all costs, or are there objects of higher value? (c.f. Matt 13:44-46)

An important nugget is dropped early on:
"Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way" (4:13-15)

Wisdom, knowledge, teaching and experience - they're all useful! I feel that this sentiment is echoed in Pauls later teaching, avoid sin, "run away from the evil desires of youth. Try hard to live right and to have faith, love, and peace, together with those who trust in the Lord from pure hearts" (2 Timothy 2:22, NCV) No doubt Paul was aware of Solomon's teaching on wisdom as he wrote this passage.

Again Solomon makes his point with "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (4:23) Here is wisdom indeed, as true today as it was in Solomon's day. We have so many things pulling us this way and that, we must be careful to guard our hearts and the best way to do that is by living a life of righteousness (which can be made easier with a little wisdom).

Solomon uses a very specific example to explain what happens if we do not guard our heart, if we do not live lives of wisdom and righteousness. He spends most of the next 3 chapters (5-7) talking about adultery and prostitution, but I think he is also using the "adulteress" as a symbol of the ungodly. Heed his warning: "Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?" (6:27-28) Jesus, when he talks about adultery, puts it this way "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." (Matt 5:27-29)

One thing, though. If you do stray, if you do something unwise or unrighteous, there is forgiveness, there is a second chance - but it may come at a cost!


I think there are two things that ought to be applied from this passage:

Firstly, "listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart" (4:20b-21)
What a great place to start with my first decent reading for ages... read it and keep it with you. Take it in and make it a part of you. I always like the phrase "hide them in your heart" although I can't remember where in the bible (or what translation) that comes from.

Secondly, beware distractions - particularly but not exclusively the sexual kind. Or as Solomon puts it: "Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil" (4:25-27) Make life easy on yourself, avoid the questionable! A help in this respect? "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105)


Father God, may I keep my mind fixed on you your word in my heart. May I live a life which pleases you and honours you. Lead me away from temptation and keep me on your path of righteousness. In Jesus' name I ask these things. Amen

Sword drills and SAYsoaps

So a couple of days ago I said how I was going to engage in training and spiritual exercise, in an attempt to build myself up and prepare myself for what's ahead.

To be honest the knee drills have been easier. Although I've only actually been on my knees once, I have been making an effort to spend some time praying every morning to varying levels of success - in the words of most of my teachers: "Could do better!"

However I've really struggled with the Sword Drills. I know it's vitally important that I don't just dip into the bible but actually bite huge chunks out of it - that's why I picked the SAYsoaps stuff. It's online and I can look at it whenever, plus it has other peoples observations, applications and prayers attached. However I've been struggling a little because the passages are so long!

So today my brain actually kicked into gear and I had a think. It became quite obvious eventually - SAYsoaps includes a link to BibleGateway, BibleGateway includes a "listen to this passage" feature et voila, listen to the passage whilst I do other stuff! Yay! I tried it today and got through Proverbs 4-7 quite painlessly (I'll be blogging about this shortly). So pretty good really!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Tech meets holiness!

I love it when I can combine my two loves, technology and Christianity! As I've said lots of times before, I'm trying to get myself trained up as a warrior. Recently, however, I've been a bit lax. I've let myself go!!

So here was my plan over a year ago now: morning and evening knee and sword drills - a good combination of exercise and discipline. The situation now? Unfortunately I haven't continued any one of those four exercises... oh dear!

It strikes me that perhaps God has postponed our engagement in the battlefront in Looe until we are properly focused on Him (especially me). I'm now working from "home" for the same company, and the joy of this situation is that they told me that as long as I was available 10-4, I could pretty much work whenever I wanted. The last few days I've been waking up at 9:30 and still having to rush to work... what's that about?

So, anyway, it's time to recommit myself and get a little bit more disciplined!! As part of that, I've been really impressed with SAYsoaps - it's an interactive daily reading guide provided by the Youth Department of The Salvation Army USA Western Territory (SOAP stands for Scripture, Observation, Application & Prayer). I wanted a way to view it on my phone and use it in the morning, so I played around with the site a little bit and I've managed to develop an RSS feed of yesterdays, todays and tomorrows readings.

The feed (built using Yahoo! Pipes) can be seen at and the RSS feed is there (or here).

In order to build the feed, I had to start with the yearly outline and build from there. It takes the list of daily readings and uses those for the item titles, the link points to the specific record on the SAYsoaps site and the "description" (or body) of each item is captured from the mobile website.

This means I can read on my phone and then comment on the site if I so wish. Good eh? I really love playing around with Yahoo! Pipes, they're brilliant!

OK, finally, what's the plan for my spiritual exercise and training?
Morning Sword Drill - SAYsoaps - Something big to wrestle with to get me going for the day (hopefully you can expect to see some output from these morning sessions on here)
Morning Knee Drill - Literally get down on my knees and thank God for another day, pray for people, situations and places, pray through issues of the day

Spiritual food/snacks (important to match exercise with a healthy diet ;-) ) - A few daily readings to provide extra bits of spiritual nourishment

Evening Sword Drill - Specific study of passages as led
Evening Knee Drill - Praise God for the day, pray through issues of the day

At least once a week Lucy and I will also spend some time studying, praying and worshipping together, something that we haven't done regularly for a little too long!

Cheerio for now!


Monday, 10 August 2009

Let your little light shine...

So me and a friend of mine have thought about starting a company to install multimedia equipment in homes, churches, workplaces etc (Shameless plug time: CJ Technologies) and to get a feel for the work and to build reputation we approached my Church to do their upgrade.

The work was planned to go over two weekends, little did we realise the sheer scale of the project. The job entailed new speakers, a sound/multimedia desk at the back of the hall, a new projector, mounting the projectors from the (extremely high) ceiling, a front facing screen at the back for the leader.

We had some major issues with the wiring - this being mostly that I have a fear of heights and Chris can't use the ladders at the moment and I had to try and secure the cabling at a height beyond what the ladder could reach, so had to do lots of leaning and stretching... I was not comfortable and it severely slowed down the process!!

Anyway, there we were working through the night between Saturday and Sunday, to make sure it was all working for Sunday (which it did perfectly, with the exception of the projected images being tiny... doh!) and a couple of thoughts came to me.

Firstly was commitment. We were totally committed to the job and did what needed to be done, we kept going till it was finished. So there's your first lesson in the Christian life: make a commitment and stick to it until the task is complete, no matter what the cost is.

Second lesson comes from the fact that I was wearing a white t-shirt whilst doing very dusty dirty work. It was gross by the evening. I was walking up a ladder past a hanging globe light and a thought struck me - it wasn't the obvious about how the light showed up the dirt, I knew how drty I was, I could feel it in the material and could smell it... The thing that struck me was that despite how dirty the light was (and it was far dustier than I was) it was still bright enough to make my dirty white t-shirt look a bit whiter.

It made me realise that however useless I am (even when I predict that a 24 hour job will only take 6) my little light can still shine and can still make a difference - it still works better when it's clean, though!!