The McGill Family Christmas Pregame

A few years ago, I noticed a pattern developing on Christmas morning. The kids would wake up far earlier than I ever felt necessary … with more energy than I thought possible. After being dragged from my bed, we’d pause long enough for me to get a cup of coffee, and then my kids would descend upon their gifts with wreckless abandon.

Wolves in the dead of winter, at the height of their hunger, chase their prey with less determination when compared to my kids on Christmas morning. Have you seen a hungry wolf chase a rabbit?

In a few hours after the last gift was opened, a terrible transformation would quickly take hold. Their attitudes would sour. They would leave behind joy and excitement and descend into bickering and discontent.

I imagine that some of this is due to natural immaturity and maybe even the natural aftermath in the release of so much anticipation. But too much of it came from a lack of instruction.

My natural response was to say, “You are so ungrateful!” I wanted (but didn’t) to take all the gifts and throw them in the trash. Maybe even start a bonfire (some people would consider me dramatic and reactionary…Maybe I just like to create powerful memories? #LameRationalization).

In this moment, I received a simple insight: I never told them to be thankful. Yikes. What a fatherhood failure. I knew I needed to make a change because I never gave them a pregame that would set them up to win.

Since then, every Christmas morning, before we open the gifts–when the excitement in the family room is nearly visible in the air–we pause while I share a few thoughts on contentment. This year, I took them on the following journey and said the following:

People are more important than things, and God is more important than people. Things never last and people will let you down, but God is dependable-always and forever.

More things will never lead to more happiness. Content is a problem for everyone, for people with lots of stuff and for people with only a little bit of stuff. It’s a myth that more things will make us content and give us peace. In fact, it seems like the people with more stuff have greater struggles with being content.

When we want more, we think getting more will solve the problem. But that’s not the way it works. Instead, our hearts need gratitude, not getting more stuff.

So. The gifts you get today will test your heart. Stuff isn’t bad, but when it keeps us from loving others and loving God, we have a big problem. Let’s choose to be thankful for what we have now, and let’s be thankful when we’ve opened up the gifts and have new stuff.

Let’s not let things keep us from loving people or loving God.

This is the fourth year in a row that I haven’t heard any complaining and disappointment and wanting more — all the things that spring from a divided heart that lacks contentment.

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” — Paul (1 Timothy 6:6)

 

 

Bible Study Guide: 1 Timothy Chapter 2

#1. Read 1 Timothy chapter 2, make a note of anything that is confusing, convicting or encouraging for you personally.

#2. Paul uses four different words to describe prayer: petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving. Why, what point is he making?

#3. How many times is the word ALL used? What is Paul’s point?

#4 What does it look like for you personally to pray for “all people,” “kings,” and “those in authority?”

#5. According to this passage, what does God want? How does understanding God’s will make an impact in the way we make decisions and relate to others?

#6. How does this passage define the Gospel? What themes or teachings are emphasized? Why is there a need for a mediator between God and people? In what way was Jesus a ransom?

#7. Why do you think Paul sets up anger and disputes as opposite of prayer and holiness?

#8. Do you think Paul’s point about modesty applies to only women? Is it ok for men to be immodest and indecent?

#9. Why do you think Paul specifically addresses some instruction to men, and others to men?

#10. What is this passage teaching about women? How does this make you feel? What is your first response when you encounter something you don’t understand or agree with? How do you think God wants us to respond?
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NOTES

#2.

In verse 1, Paul’s point is to encourage us to pray all kinds of prayers. He is not creating a carefully prescribed of different kinds of prayers. The definitions and nuances of each word is overlaps with the others:

>petitions: to ask or seek, to say please, carries a sense of urgency
>prayers: to speak or make requests of God
>intercession: to speak to someone on behalf of someone else, that is, praying for others. This word only occurs once in the NT!
>thanksgiving: expression of gratitude

(See also Philippians 4:6)

#8.

The teaching about women in this passage can be difficult to understand and easy to reject. It’s best to admit the discomfort and have the courage to move towards understanding. Wouldn’t it be great if God always told us what we wanted to hear!

Resist the tendency to reject a perspective just because we don’t agree with it. The Bible is not simply a perspective, it is the Perspective because it its God’s Word.

A life of faith calls us to look to God’s Word as our standard with more authority than our feelings, experience, or culture. Faith will lead to greater wisdom when we accept that assumptions are the enemy of understanding.

Understanding what a passage in the Bible means for our life means we first understand what it meant for the lives of the original readers.

All communication requires context! What does “lead sinks” mean? Am I talking about sinks that are not porcelain but are made out of lead? Or am I talking about the obvious fact that lead is heavier than water and will not float?

Paul’s letters were occasional, meaning they were written to a specific situation. Historical context looks at what was happening in the lives of the original readers/hearers. We must also look at the greater contexts of this book, Paul’s writings, and the rest of scripture.

Now that we’ve covered some elementary principles for reading and understanding scripture, let’s talk specifically about 1 Timothy chapter 2:9-15.
Paul gives several commands about worship: women are to (1) dress modestly, (2) learn in quietness and submission, (3) not to teach or have authority about men. Modest dress is easy to understand and accept. Worship is about turning our attention to God, and distractions ought to be removed. No one would show up to church in a bathing suit! The second commands are more difficult to interpret and apply.
The Teacher-Student Dynamic
Two thousand years ago, in this part of the world, it was acceptable for students to interrupt teachers with questions, as long as these questions displayed an understanding of the topic. In these times, women were typically less educated than men. Perhaps, in this congregation, the women were interrupting too much. Paul supported their instruction (which some believe was counter-cultural), but taught against disruption.
Building a Stronger Community
It’s obvious that Timothy’s community needed to be strengthened. People were not praying for governmental authorities–hinting perhaps to a rebellion against the rulers. Apparently, men were angry and fighting, and women were dressing provocatively. Obviously this does not mean that women could fight and men could be immodest! Was it ok for men to learn without being quiet and submissive? Of course not.
No Such Thing As Second Class
We know that Paul isn’t saying that women are “second class” citizens in God’s kingdom: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 This was a radical, counter-cultural teaching.
Radical, but Never too Radical
Imagine if God spoke to you, in this very moment, and he told you everything that that was sinful about your life? We’d crumble. Instead, God takes us on a journey, telling us a little before he tells us a lot.

Romans 14 and 15 urges mature believers to give up freedoms so as to not offend other believers. One example was eating certain foods. All foods are clean, but if some people have not yet accepted this truth, there is no need for the mature to offend them with their freedom.

It may be, that in ancient times, having a woman as a teacher was simply too much of an obstacle for the congregation. In the language of our day: you’ve got to pick your battles.

In today’s culture, we are more open to equality between men and women. (Although we are still no where close to Paul’s Kingdom ideal in Galatians 3:28.)

Was Paul speaking to a specific cultural issue, or was he giving us an eternal principle to live by? Why then, would the Holy Spirit give some women incredible gifts of teaching? Do men have nothing to learn from such Spirit-filled teachers?

Additionally, “authority over a man” can also be interpreted as “authority over her husband.” This would make sense with the reference to Adam and Eve, however this would seem to contradict Rom 7:2–3; Eph 5:22–23; and Col 3:18–19.

It is impossible for women to NEVER have ANY spiritual authority over ANY men. Some biblical examples include:

Paul ranks prophets second to apostles (1 Corinthians 12:28) and clearly recognizes female apostles (1 Corinthians 11:5)
Deborah was a prophet and judge (Judges 4:4)
Pricilla and Aquila (Acts 18:26)
Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2)
In Romans 16:3-16, Paul lists and commends twice as many women as he does men.
Junia is called an apostle (Romans 16:7), and many believe this was a female name.

Understanding “Full Submission”
This phrase, in the original language and culture, “which suggests not simply an attitude, but a structural placement of one person below another (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 3.66.3; 2 Cor 9:13; Gal 2:5). The same demand will be made of the children of a household in 1 Tim 3:4 (compare Tit 2:5, 9; 3:1).”**
A Few Final Thoughts
We can’t ignore this passage, and pretend it doesn’t exist! We must remember the core teaching of the Kingdom is about the Gospel of Jesus, and in this, the particulars of worship are secondary. Additionally, Paul does base this on his authority, look at the number of times he says “I”. Throughout the history of the church, many injustices have been rationalized because of this passage–and this can’t continue or be repeated.

Finally, there can be no doubt: this is a tough passage to understand in it’s own context and apply it to ours! It is important to remember the overarching, all inclusive theme of this passage: everyone, men and women, are to worship God with lives that are peaceful and quiet.

**Johnson, L. T. (2008). The first and second letters to Timothy: a new translation with introduction and commentary (Vol. 35A, p. 201). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

 

Bible Study Guide: 1 Timothy Chapter 1

Background Information

Acts 19: Paul in Ephesus

EPHESUS efʹə-səs [Gk. Ephesos—‘desirable’]. An important seaport city of the Roman province of Asia. In the NT it is mentioned in Acts 18:19–28; 19:1, 17–20; 20:16f.; 1 Cor. 15:32; 16:8; 1 Tim. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:18; 4:12; Rev. 1:11; 2:1. (Ephesus. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised.)

Read 1 Timothy chapter 1.

How does Paul describe:
(a) His role/calling?
(b) God and Jesus?
(c) Timothy?

What was Timothy’s mission in Ephesus?

What’s more important, the command, or it’s goal? Why or why not? What is the connection between the command and the goal?

How can a person be sure to develop the kind of love that comes from a pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith?

In your opinion, does Paul sound arrogant when he says that the gospel has been entrusted to him? Does this set him up as better than others? Why or why not? How do verses 12-17 impact the answer to this question?

Based on this passage, 1:3-11, what does it mean to use the law properly?

How was Paul trustworthy, when it was God’s grace that was “poured out” on him–grace that included Paul having faith and love? What clues from the text support your answer?

The lynch pin of this chapter is found in verse 15: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” For you personally, how is the “trustworthy saying” in significant?

Check 1 Timothy 4:14 for “prophecies once made about” Timothy. It’s clear that others spoke into Timothy’s life, affirming God’s calling in his life. Based on this passage, why would it be important for Timothy to recall them?

Has anyone ever spoken into your life like this? What did they say? What was it like?

Based on all the teachings in this passage, how can a person avoid shipwrecking their faith?

What do you think Paul means when he said that he handed them (Hymenaeus and Alexander) to Satan? Does this mean it’s ok to give up on people? Why or why not?

From With The Word, a devotional by Warren W. Wiersbe:

The work in Ephesus was not easy, and Timothy wanted a new assignment; but Paul urged him to stay where he was and get the job done (1:3). The next time you want to abandon your assigned place, consider the arguments Paul gave Timothy for staying where he was.

For the work’s sake (1–11). What Paul warned the Ephesian elders about had come true:false teachers were in the church (Acts 20:28–30). The pastor’s job is to warn them and teach the people the truth. If he abandoned the flock, Timothy would be a hireling and not a shepherd (John 10:12–13).

For the Lord’s sake (12–17). Jesus died to save sinners, and He lives to equip and enable His servants to do the work of the ministry. The same God who empowered Paul could empower Timothy—and can empower us today. God is faithful!

For our own sake (18–20). God had equipped Timothy, called him, and given him a solemn charge. There was a battle to fight, and he dare not run away. If we flee the post of duty, we rob ourselves of opportunities to grow, to serve, and to glorify God.

When the winds of adversity blow, set your sails in the right direction, and let Christ handle the rudder. Otherwise, you may be shipwrecked.

Responsibility — Someone defined responsibility as “our response to God’s ability.”

Safe Sins

“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:16.

It isn’t easy to be a mature follower of Jesus.

In the beginning of the faith, our spiritual struggles are so visible and visceral. The path to humility and faithful obedience is easy to discern because our pride is towering, our thoughts are selfish, and our desires go unchecked.

After time, the struggles become more subtle–often to the point of shrinking from view. In my opinion, this is primarily because we learn how to play a new game. We know how to put up an impenetrable facade and fake our spiritual maturity to the world. As fallen, broken people, we can forget any lesson taught to us by God’s Spirit. We can justify nearly any action and even tell ourselves lies we are quick to believe.

And when our flaws become undeniable, we can respond with, “that’s just the way I am.”

Thanks to Duffy Robbins, I was exposed to a great blog post but Tim Keller here. In this article, Tim examines a particularly useful list of safe Christian blemishes in Christian character.

If you are looking to surrender the next thing to God, I urge you to check out Tim’s post.

Choosing contentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6)

Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14)

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalms 37:4)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)

What’s the opposite of being content? What effect does the lack of contentment have on a person’s soul? According to scripture, it is a great loss.

I have seen both the rich and the poor have problems being content. Contentment is obviously not a matter of spending power, nor how much we own.

True contentment comes only when we become more like God, when we deny ourselves and pursue the unique design he has created for us. This is the pursuit of godliness.

Denying ourselves doesn’t equate to never wanting, because God wants. In fact, his want is so powerful, one of his names is Jealous. What kind of jealously can possibly be good? For God, he’s wanting that which rightfully belongs to him–our hearts–and he doesn’t want our hearts to be divided.

When we want the things that God has given and provided. When we shape our delight to find first joy in God, our other desires become appropriately subordinated. When we seek first the kingdom of God, worrying about lesser concerns won’t consume our attention.

When we want the things we can never have, we become discontent.
When we want the things we can’t yet have, we become discontent.
When we want the things God has provided, we are living in the “great gain” of godliness with contentment.

Contentment is more than satisfaction. Satisfaction says, “I’ll be happy with what I have.” Contentment says, “I’m happy because this is God’s provision in my life.”

BIBLE STUDY DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
When do you struggle most with contentment? How has a lack of contentment driven you?
Do you ever feel guilty for the stuff that you do have? Where do you think this guilt comes from? What needs to change?
Make a list of ten things for which you are thankful to God for.