Against Such Things There is No Law: Timothy Part 2

I used to be a big fan of country music. It’s not as much a part of my life anymore since most of it isn’t particularly edifying and because I use my driving time for Scripture review now. But I did recall a lyric from a random song when mulling over thoughts for this post. “You don’t have to guess what I’m against/If you know what I’m for” – thanks, Pat Green!

Obviously it’s a bit simplistic, but it stood out to me since that’s one thing I’m learning from Paul’s letters to Timothy and from other parts of Scripture. In order to be able to identify and avoid what’s false and evil, I have to devote myself to what’s true and good. This begins in my thought life and consequently plays itself out in actions and the words I speak. Paul gives this exhortation in his letter to the Philippians:

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

As I’ve written before, there’s always a lot of conviction over sin, repentance, and striving for growth with each book I memorize. When I started the letters to Timothy I was aware that internet outrage culture wasn’t good in general and definitely wasn’t healthy for me, but I still frequented Twitter far too often. It’s a lamentable reality that even among professing Christians social media is populated with bully pulpits ranting about a myriad of issues. James might well rebuke us if he read a Facebook post belittling another image bearer followed by a link to a favorite praise song (see James ch. 3). I’m guilty of this and know I’m still at risk for falling right into that habit.

One oft-discussed topic in the Christian blogosphere is complementarianism. It isn’t as if this is a new discussion occurring within the church. Paul had to correct the Corinthians on it and included instructions for men and women within the church in his letters to Titus and Timothy as well. Rather than try to summarize, I’ll let the Spirit-inspired Word speak for itself:

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” -1 Corinthians 14:33-38

“But you must say the things that are consistent with sound teaching. Older men are to be level headed, worthy of respect, sensible, and sound in faith, love, and endurance. In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. They are to teach what is good, so they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered. In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled in everything. Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us.” – Titus 2:1-8

“I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument. Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God. A woman should learn in silence with full submission. I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent. For Adam was created first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment.” -1 Timothy 2:8-15

It’s true that there are prohibitions given in these passages. It’s also noteworthy how many beautiful truths are communicated here:

  • God isn’t a God of confusion but of peace.
  • He is the Source of His Word, not any mere human.
  • God created both man and woman in the right order – and we know that it was very good (see Genesis 1).

In 1 Timothy, the prohibition to women teaching or being in authority over men is preceded by an incredible encouragement to women of God to dress themselves in good works. Satan deceived Eve in the garden, tricking her into believing that God was holding something back from her because there was one tree that was off-limits. The enemy still spreads this lie, and we should flee anytime it tempts us. Our Father is perfect and isn’t trying to keep us from anything good!

Older men and women and younger men are given solid exhortations towards holy living. Titus is likewise encouraged to make himself “an example of good works” and to proclaim the sound message of Christ.

As I’ve meditated on 1 Timothy each Thursday for a little over a year, I’ve sought the Spirit’s enabling to be a woman who loves her husband and children, one who is kind, and one who prioritizes good works over expensive apparel. I fail a lot. I failed to be patient and gentle more times than I can count even within the time it took to write and edit this post! His grace abounds in Christ.

Yet I can testify that as He’s produced fruit in me in this area I’m less drawn towards controversies online or elsewhere. Reading a Bible story to the kids now comes before putting on eyeliner (which rarely happens anyway 😉 ). Having the time to prepare and deliver a meal to someone means that I need to be disciplined in managing our household and that there just isn’t a lot of time for aimless scrolling.

Thinking more frequently and more deeply on God’s gentleness, patience, love, and great mercy towards sinful people (of whom I am the foremost!) holds me back from snap judgments and subsequently gossiping or harboring unforgiving feelings towards others.

To close, I’ll share a passage we looked at in my Bible study this week – I love the phrase “against such things there is no law”! Family in Christ, let’s earnestly pursue those things together.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:22-25

Trustworthy + Deserving of Full Acceptance: 1 Timothy Part 1

A little over a year ago I read two books by a guy named Bob Goff- Love Does and Everybody Always. These two books- especially the latter- did for my love life (by which I mean the way that I love God + all of the people around me me, not just my spouse) what Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life did for my prayer life. That is, these books helped exposed how dry and near-dead my love for God and neighbor was. Then they pointed me to gospel hope, reminding me that God is the Source Who is never depleted and to rely fully on Him to love well.

It was also right around the time that I read these books that I finished up memorizing Genesis 1-4 and a few Psalms and was guided to 1 and 2 Timothy as my next books to commit to memory. By this time I knew the Holy Spirit always has reasons for when He wants me to dig into a certain part of the Bible. This now makes me a mixture of super excited to see what He has in store plus pretty afraid of how much conviction I’m gonna experience as a result. What He’s teaching me through Paul’s letters to Timothy has certainly brought so much needed rebuke, resulting in massive amounts of growth (still in progress) and much joy (with plenty of room for more!)

The way I’ve been describing it lately is that I’ve spent the majority of my Christian life (20 trips around the sun) privately thinking that it was acceptable to be a ‘jerk for Jesus’ as long as I got the main things right (i.e. doctrinal and moral issues). I couldn’t and didn’t see it that way, of course. If I offended someone with my words or actions regarding a faith-related issue, I rarely considered it to even be a possibility that I was at fault in any way.

And more to the heart of the matter, even when the issue was a legitimate one that warranted correction I rarely truly wanted the other person(s) to see Jesus clearly and have more joy in Him. My primary concern wasn’t for God’s glory. What I wanted was to win. For me. Even typing that out just now hurt quite a bit. It’s hard to admit and harder to keep away from the black hole of what-ifs. So let’s continue…

What woke me up? 1 Timothy 1. Paul greets Timothy as his true son, pointing him to the grace and mercy and peace God has given us. He then gives Timothy the job of staying in Ephesus to instruct certain people who are going off course in their doctrine to get back on track. So far so good for overzealous Emma. Go get ’em, Tim. Then, verse 5:

“Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.”

Hmm. That does sound better than the goal of feeling intellectually and morally superior to somebody else. And if Paul is communicating this to Timothy so that he can share it with others, not everybody in Ephesus is doomed to be led astray by false teaching. The end goal of handling the problems in the Ephesian church was God’s glory and their good. We then read an explanation of the purpose of the law, including a list of sinful practices that Paul exposes as contrary to God’s glorious gospel. He then continues with this incredible paragraph:

“I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry — one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. But I received mercy because I acted out of ignorance in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” — and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate His extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” – 1 Timothy 1:12-17

Paul 100% owns that he lived in opposition to God. He thanks God for showing him mercy and bringing him from ignorant godlessness into true belief in Christ! Just in case it might be missed, he puts it in bright lights:

This is trustworthy! Accept this fully! Christ Jesus came to save sinners!

God’s patience is extraordinary. And if He showed it to Paul, I’m confident He’s extended it to me. And I can live convinced that it reaches to those around me. The Spirit is changing my heart day by day to really want the believers around me to be free from sin and false thinking, completely certain that Jesus came to save them and to have joy to the full as they walk in God’s grace. He’s working in me to seek to share this good news with those who haven’t heard and/or don’t believe it as the best news, knowing that:

“…God our Savior…wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 2:3-4

So that’s it again: may we marvel nonstop that God reaches down and saves sinful people (there isn’t anybody else to save!) and that He is worthy of all glory and honor and praise forever. We’ll rehearse that again in the next post, Lord willing!

Be blessed,

Emma

Band-Aids & Bacitracin: Meditating on the Psalms

Last year at Bible study fellowship we studied several chapters in Proverbs. Our lecturer referenced something she’d read that referred to Proverbs as the smelling salts and Psalms as the ointment cabinet of the Bible, respectively. Every analogy breaks down at some point, but that one has stuck with me.

My three and a half year old daughter Regina is currently in the toddler “wound phase” – she’s obsessed with cuts and scrapes. Mostly her own, but occasionally other people’s as well. We have a pretty strict policy of no band-aids unless there’s actually a real need (there would be a bandage shortage otherwise 😉 ) but nevertheless I keep a tube of bacitracin and a box of Disney Princess band-aids in my purse at all times. It can’t hurt to be prepared!

I currently have three Psalms memorized. The comfort, conviction, strength, joy, and many other blessings dwelling on these Psalms has brought so far is immeasurable, so I legitimately can’t wait to learn the remaining 147 in the coming years!

In this post I’ll share a few insights and stories from these three chapters. I would love to hear from you about your favorite Psalms as well!

I memorized Psalm 9 in the KJV translation with a wonderful friend by her suggestion. It was really meaningful to text back and forth for a few weeks as we added verses and gleaned insights from the text. I review it frequently (every three days or so) and am always spurred to deeper certainty of God’s just judgment of sin and His great mercy to all who put their trust in Him.

Just a few weeks after finishing it, that same friend and I went to pray and sidewalk counsel at the abortion clinic. It was bitterly cold out and it was a heartbreaking morning, full of rejection from the clinic staff and parents intent on aborting their children. I went home, survived until the kid’s nap time, then collapsed into bed. I felt the deepest despair I’ve experienced to date, but the Spirit prompted me (and gave me the energy) to say Psalm 9 aloud. These verses in particular filled me with so much hope that I got out of bed, confident in His sovereignty and goodness, ready to press onward:

“And He shall judge the world in righteousness, He shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in Thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people His doings. When He maketh inquisition for blood, He remembereth them: He forgetteth not the cry of the humble. Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death: That I may shew forth all Thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.” – Psalms 9:8-14

The next Psalm I memorized and one that I pray through nearly every morning is Psalm 19. If last week’s post spurred you to memorize something, I’d really commend this one to you. Starting the day with this petition to God does truly revive my soul, rejoice my heart, and enlighten my eyes to His worthiness:

“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalms 19:12-14

Every Tuesday I review Psalm 103, which I memorized a few years ago with my awesome sister-in-law. I would really encourage you to dwell on this one often as well. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this passage lifts my eyes to the Creator King’s righteousness and the compassion He shows to His children, remembering that we are dust. The ending of the Psalm is so marvelous too:

“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all….Praise the Lord, all His works in all the places where He rules. My soul, praise Yahweh!” – Psalms 103:19, 22

David first records that God’s Kingdom rules over all things, then urges that all His works ought to praise Him. We know from Revelation 5 that they indeed will! David ends the Psalm the way he begins it, exhorting his own soul to join in that praise. I love joining in with the myriads- glorifying and enjoying God today, tomorrow, and forever!

I hope this post has been edifying. I’m so very aware that this present life is really grueling and all too often absolutely painful and deeply sad. As Christian pilgrims we live in the already but not yet. That means we still gotta keep ointment and band-aids on hand in our backpacks. So be sure to leave home with plenty of Psalms-truth on hand, dear brothers and sisters.

Be blessed,

Emma

Memorizing the Bible: The How

Fasten your seatbelts, y’all. It’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Last week we covered the why of memorizing the Bible. Today we’ll cover the how.

Time:

One thing you might be thinking is that you just don’t have time to memorize and review the Bible. If that’s the case, I would encourage you to pick a day in the near future and track your time that entire day. There are many apps that can help you do this (StackTheTime is just one of many out there) or you could just jot it things down on a note on your phone or on a piece of paper.

Be as aggressive as you can possibly be- track how much time you spend sprawled out in bed snoozing your alarm, how much time you spend getting ready, how you use your lunch break, and even (perhaps especially!) how much time you spend scrolling around on your phone during those times.

See where you have a few spare minutes to devote to memory and review as well as what daily tasks would lend themselves well to multitasking (i.e. emptying the dishwasher, waiting in a carpool line or standstill traffic, folding laundry, etc.) Over the course of today I reviewed John 11, Revelation 12, Job 38-42, and Psalm 103 while driving to the library and whilst doing various household tasks. The kids (and Drew 🙂 ) are used to it by now and interrupt somewhat, but much less than they used to because it’s become familiar for them.

Time tracking may also be revelatory in regards to how you do spend your free time- perhaps it’s time to cut down on a particular podcast, TV show, or video game. In any case, hopefully this can help you find time within your day to devote to learning and meditating on the Word of God.

Methods & Tools

After discovering what time(s) you can set aside for this purpose, evaluate what methods best help you learn and experiment with available tools. I start by copying the chapter into my phone’s note app and breaking it into sections that make sense for me. Here are two example notes from 2 Timothy 4 and Nehemiah 7:

Then I would record a short section on the Memorize Anything app and listen to it while I cleaned up, etc. (I don’t use that app anymore, but it was very helpful initially). These days I repeat it out loud over and over, checking the note when I need to until I don’t need to look anymore. The following day I review from the previous day and add another section, repeating it as many times as necessary to get it down pat. It isn’t always just a once a day thing, either. Some days I review chapters multiple times out of desperate need for the Word. Extra review is needed for passages that are more difficult than others to retain (For me that’s John 13-17! I had to review it tons initially and that whole section still requires extra efforts on my part). I’ve certainly learned that the memorizing process is mega important, but that it’s just the beginning. It’s not rocket surgery: review, review, review!

An important aside: getting what you’re memorizing word perfect is a good aim. After all, this is the inspired Word of God. But I’m gonna be honest: I frequently miss words and even lose whole sections from the books and passages that I have memorized. That’s why I still have to check against the notes on my phone to ensure it’s right. I truly believe that the point of this discipline is to internalize the truth of the text in order to love God more and pursue obedience to Him. So do take it seriously, but don’t panic about getting words wrong or forgetting parts. He loves you so much and gives much grace to the humble.

It’ll also be helpful to identify your learning style. Does listening to something on repeat cement it into your mind? Try recording a short passage on a recording app (such as the aforementioned Memorize Anything app) or listening to it on the YouVersion Bible app. Maybe for you writing it down multiple times will be the best method – either on a device or in a notebook- according to science, paper and pen will likely serve you best 🙂 If you have other ideas or things you’ve tried, please share them with me!

Accountability:

Find a person or a few people you can ask to hold you accountable as well as incentives that will keep you going. Since I started memorizing I’ve written out the day’s passage from memory and texted it in a group message to my sister Caroline and my Mom. I’ve also done this over shorter periods of time with several other friends and family members when we memorized passages together. When I finish a chapter, I say it aloud to my husband Drew and we talk about it. This practice not only keeps me accountable, but it also knits me together with other believers in a really special way. I love learning from other’s insights on what I just texted or recited!

Rewards & Celebrations:

Finally, consider setting up rewards to incentivize you to meet your goal. As a small daily example, I wait to listen to podcasts until I’ve done my review and memorization. It also helps me to record chapters on Adobe Spark Video and share them with others on social media. I’m also grateful that those recordings are stored on the cloud to leave with my kids (and hopefully grandkids).

And, of course, good food motivates me! After I finished Revelation we went out to the Cheesecake Factory for a steak. When the kids finished memorizing Hebrews 1 I took them to Chik-Fil-A to celebrate! (I’ll be sharing a post on memorizing with kids in the near future).

In summary:

  • Figure out where you have time in your schedule to memorize and review Scripture. Protect & prioritize that time!
  • Discover your learning style and the tools that are best for you- this will likely require trial and error. You got this!
  • Find an accountability partner. I’m always available!
  • Utilize incentives & celebrate victories!

I hope this has been helpful for y’all. Feel free to send questions and/or comments! Be blessed,

Emma

Memorizing the Bible: The Why!

Has a song gotten stuck in your head recently? If it has, I hope it’s been one you really like and listen to often (as opposed to an annoying tune from a kid’s toy or a lame song you heard in a store or something)!

Every now and again phrases from the Bible passages I’ve memorized will get stuck in my head. Here’s one! It happened because when I first memorized it (for me, this involves a lot of loud repetition) Jude would repeat it, so we made a little game out of it. I would say:

“…He was even calling God His own Father…”

And Jude, from his car seat or while building something with Duplos, would finish:

“…making Himself equal with God.” – John 5:18

The truth conveyed here is foundational to the Christian faith- that Jesus is truly God. That’s definitely something I want to think about nonstop!

That was a rambly start to a two part series on why and how to memorize books of the Bible. This part will focus on the why, because without that the how isn’t gonna help anybody.

In my first post I listed the books and passages I’ve memorized. Since then I’ve made progress in Nehemiah (today I’ll start memorizing chapter 7) and have also memorized the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians. That totals up to 80 chapters so far. And as a result of dedicating roughly an hour or so each day to review, I can recite all of those chapters from memory. If I didn’t live with myself 24/7, I’d be proud of that. As it is, I’m not. But more on that later.

My initial motivation for memorizing was to model an active love for God’s Word to my children. I knew that if I didn’t love it and prize it, it’d be pretty disingenuous to encourage them to do so. At that point in my journey I was a believer, but my love for God was very faint. By His grace, He convicted me of my lack of desire for Him.

The threefold God genuinely wants each of us know, enjoy, and love Him. I can testify that He will indeed give more grace to anyone who humbly acknowledges their sin and draws near to Him. It’s incredible!

If memorizing – whether it’s a verse or two, a chapter, or a whole book- is something you’re wanting to commit to or something you’re currently attempting, read this:

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day….How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” -Psalms 119:97, 103

Now take a moment to ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with this mindset, to enable you to hunger and thirst for His righteousness, and to show you how much better His revealed Word is than any pleasure this world has to offer. Ask Him to tear down any barriers preventing you from spending time in His Word. If you have a bad memory and it’s really tough for you to retain Scripture, ask Him to make your memory really great when it comes to the Bible. Regardless of how He answers that petition, you can be confident in asking Him to display His perfect power in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Now back to why I’m not proud of knowing 80 chapters of the Bible from memory. I know the evil I conceal in my mind and heart- and all the times that manifests itself in the way I treat others and how I regard God.

I desperately need to repeat the Word to myself because I’m a rotten sinner. On more than one occasion I’ve been reviewing Colossians 3, reciting aloud the command to be compassionate and forgiving as Christ has forgiven me, then turned around and treated my toddler’s spilled juice like it was the greatest catastrophe of all time.

So then I need to – and get to! – go back to Colossians 2 where I’m promised that Jesus has erased the debt I owe because of my sin by nailing it to the cross. Because Colossians 3 also tells me to be humble, I’m spurred to confess my sinfulness to my kids and point them to Jesus’ righteous sacrifice made on behalf of everyone who puts their trust in Him.

This doesn’t come easy. It’s a fight. Every.single.day. But it’s one I know He has already won for me. This means that even when I fail spectacularly, I can repent and press onward. When we see Christ as the best Master, we don’t want to serve sin anymore. We’re free to dedicate ourselves to abiding in His Word.

I’m a podcast junkie, but let me tell you this- I don’t listen to them nearly as much anymore. I’m a social media addict- but not like I once was. The Bible is displacing these things as well as others in the battle for my time and my thoughts, and I can honestly say I hope that it supplants them even more!

I don’t know how your Bible time should look. My prayer is that the Spirit will lead you to the best habits for you to bear much fruit as you abide in Christ. What I am sure of is that guilt isn’t gonna motivate you for long, if even at all. What will get you started and keep you going is the certainty that He loves you deeply and that His Word is true and life-giving!

“[May your] hearts be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” – Colossians 2:2-3

Be blessed,

Emma