Advent Calendar day 4: Intentional worship

So yesterday I talked a little bit how Paul was opinionated and in today’s readings we see Paul providing some instructions for worship and for the church that on the surface seem rather chauvinistic and outdated. Paul admonishes that women ought to be modestly dressed, to be quiet and not to teach or assume authority over a man. This scripture certainly causes the blood of feminists to boil and frankly I have never heard churches speak about this. Preachers are like “Paul we agree with many things you say but as for this one- we ain’t even going there”. Frankly, I too wanted to gloss over this scripture and all but one thing kept coming to mind all day and convicting me. I kept hearing the word of God saying “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (1 Timothy 3: 16-17 NIV)- so read with an open mind”. So I meditated on this scripture a bit more and here’s what I have learned.

Paul was addressing his disciple Timothy and passing on God-inspired instructions that he operated by as he preached to Gentile pagan nations who did not know God (1 Tim 2: 7). These people who had come to know God under Paul’s teachings were coming from a cultural context very removed from what the Jews would have known and it was Paul’s ministry to help them make sense of how to become Christ-followers and truly let go of “worldliness” in pursuit of holiness. One may argue that the worldview in Paul’s day was a lot more primitive than they are today but that does not negate the word of God which is forever settled in heaven. Paul’s instructions to women remain relevant to the “more advanced-more-refined-feminist male or female” today as it did in those days. Here is the scripture in its entirety but I encourage you to read the passage from chapter 1:

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;  she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

1 Timothy 2: 9-15 NIV

Paul encourages the proselyte women of his time to eschew disorderliness and vainglory but instead to pursue lasting virtues of faith, love and holiness. Paul encouraged women to work on having an identity that was not superficial but rather, deeply rooted in action- good deeds. This was the appropriate way for newly converted pagan women to present themselves in worship and it still rings true for children of God today. This is why after much thought, I titled today’s post ” intentional worship”. Women and men alike must be intentional in giving God worship that pours out from the inside out. Our actions must come from a place of love, faith and holiness that it adorns us before God and all that are beholden to us. Jesus said it best when He taught:

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:16 NLT

This is God’s expectation of his children, women and men alike and whether Paul said it in a way that rubs many of 21st century Christians the wrong way or not, the truth of God’s word remains the same. Holiness should be our watch word and song.

Yours Truly

Advent Devotions day 3: But Grace!

This year I shared with you some of my worst days ever. Circumstances brought out the worst in me- I was angry a lot, frustrated a lot, complained a lot, secretly cussed people off in my heart a lot, and called people “idiots” more times than I would like to admit. Yes I know, those were not some of my finest moments and yet, God never decreased his grace and mercy upon my life. All year round, through my best days and my worst, God’s love remained constant and He did not deal with me like I deserved. Instead he saw me through His eyes of mercy and His grace covered me.

In today’s readings Paul eloquently shares this same sentiment:

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1Timothy 1: 12-14 NIV

Yes, we know Paul who was once Saul of Tarsus, was not a great guy. He was very strongly opinionated as many of us are and did terrible things to the Church of Christ because of the things he once believed to be true. Frankly we have all been there… I have been judgmental, I have acted holier-than-thou and sometimes I have been a downright know-it-all. But the great news is that even Paul to whom at some point Jesus had to say to, “you have persecuted me enough.. haba!” (paraphrasing Acts 9:5)- even that Paul found grace and mercy.

God poured out his grace upon Paul abundantly; how much more you and I? There is nothing, absolutely nothing that you or I can do to deserve this grace and yet it is poured out for us so freely each and every day. Think back over the year… Can you identify specific areas where God’s grace was abundantly poured on you? Let’s give God praise for his unmerited grace and mercy.

Yours Truly