not too young

Recent research has revealed what teenagers truly desire from the adults in their lives. The Search Institute study found that teens want parents and other older influencers to do the following: 1. Look at us. 2. Spend time talking with us. 3. Listen. 4. Be dependable. 5. Show appreciation for what we do. 6. Relax. 7. Show that you’re interested. 8. Laugh with us (and at yourself). 9. Ask us to help you. 10. Challenge us.

I believe the apostle Paul did many of those things as he built into the life of a young man named Timothy. And, as number 10 on the list states, he truly did challenge him, writing, “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). What’s impressive is that Timothy was dealing with the difficult challenge of tackling false teaching in the church at Ephesus, along with some bitter persecution. Yet Paul told him to boldly live out his faith—to be an example. And Timothy needed to look no further than the great example provided by Paul himself (Philippians 4:92 Timothy 3:10-11).

If we want those who are younger to walk confidently in their faith, we must provide for them a living model. We need to show them the “living God, who is the Savior of all people” and “keep a close watch on how [we] live” (1 Timothy 4:10,16). As they witness Jesus alive in us, it will help them take their own bold faith steps.

Let younger believers know that they can be an example to all believers. And, as you do, “stay true to what is right for the sake of [your] own salvation and the salvation” of these precious younger ones (1 Timothy 4:16).

saying goodbye

Today I told my friend Jen goodbye. Having met her a year ago, I liked her from the first time I interviewed her for a teaching position in our department. I soon realized we were twins born 8 years apart—she too keeps bananas in her freezer forever and has a sensitive heart. Witty, bright, strong—and unafraid to cry—Jen embraces life with passion. I’ll miss her dearly as she begins a new life with her husband in a different city and state. As unexpectedly as our paths crossed, they now divide.

Traveling around Europe and Asia, the apostle Paul knew more of partings and distance in his relationships than he did of consistency and geographical closeness. Though he was unafraid to tell of his disappointment in various relationships and quick to ask for aid when needed (2 Timothy 1:152 Timothy 4:10-13), the account of his meeting with the elders from Ephesus for a final goodbye provides an intimate glimpse into the love Paul had for others. He wanted—and perhaps even needed—to see them again (Acts 20:17). But when dealing with the finality of this parting, Paul kept his eyes focused on the purpose God had given him for those relationships in the first place: to advance Jesus’ kingdom (Acts 20:24-25).

Separation isn’t easy, even when we know God is in control, and especially when the relationship is one that has brought spiritual growth to our lives. We fear change; we dread loss. But we can either live closed off in an attempt to avoid painful goodbyes, or we can fully love those God gives us in a divine—not random—appointment.

When the goodbyes invariably come, our hope remains constant: God is up to something good (Romans 8:28).

the main event

In John Irving’s Prayer for Owen Meany,Owen announced the distinct importance of Jesus’ resurrection: “Anyone can be sentimental about the nativity; any fool can feel like a Christian at Christmas. But Easter is the main event.”

Owen held this conviction, but not because it presents an abstract theological idea. Rather, the resurrection is central because this story of death being redeemed and life being found in God is at the center of His intentions in the world.

The apostle Paul reiterated the prime theme and truths of the gospel, the good news that had been given to him and that he was now compelled to give to others. He wrote that “Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Some Corinthian Christians, however, had begun to suggest that there was no resurrection of the dead.

No, Paul exclaimed, with force. No, do not surrender our hope. Paul’s insistence on our good future (and creation’s good future) hinged on what Jesus had already done, crucifying sin in His death and then renewing life in His resurrection. “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17).

Jesus’ resurrection was not merely a picture of God’s love and justice or just some economic transaction where humanity’s sins moved from one ledger to another. Jesus was “the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:20). By his resurrection, He inaugurated how God intends to renew every person and every place where death resides. Resurrection may seem absurd, but it is our sure hope.


Recently, I took a 17-hour road trip and my family and a foreign exchange student we were hosting were also along for the ride. To save time, we attempted to cut through a bordering country. We were turned away at the border, however, because our exchange student did not possess the right paperwork. Good security resulted in bad news for us. Disappointed, but undeterred, we took the long way to our destination.

Extended road trips and living for Jesus require endurance. The apostle Paul encouraged the persecuted believers in the church at Thessalonica to endure. He wrote of the “severe suffering” they had experienced at the hands of “their own people” (1 Thessalonians 1:62:14). Then, in a second letter, he commended them for faith that was “flourishing” and love that was “growing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). And this took place amid “all the persecutions and hardships [they were] suffering” (2 Thessalonians 1:4).

The church was choosing “endurance” and “faithfulness” instead of caving in or running for the hills. Why? They were choosing to trust God, who—as Paul wrote—would eventually use their “persecution to show his justice and to make [them] worthy of his Kingdom” (2 Thessalonians 1:5). Peter also wrote of the privilege of facing persecution for Jesus: “These trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world” (1 Peter 4:13).

There might be times when you’ll be called to suffer for Jesus and to endure with Him. As Paul wrote, “May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

Olympic Exposure

Before the days of 24 hour a day Olympic television coverage, before gold medal athletes graced boxes of Wheaties and were given ticker-tape parades at Disney World, the ancient Olympic Games were well known in the days of the Apostle Paul.  So much so that he used them as an analogy of Christian living.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”   (I Corinthians 9:24-27, ESV)

The Olympics have seen many changes since the days of ancient Greece.  Athletes now compete for precious metals, not perishable wreaths.  The Winter Games were officially added in 1928.  Yet another change in Olympic competition in recent decades is the greater inclusion of female athletes.

The Apostle Paul wouldn’t even recognize the historic games with all the glitz and glamour of today. With each passing Olympics it seems the hype only intensifies as the line between athlete and celebrity becomes increasingly blurred.

And while there still remains a fierce competition between athletes who have spent years training and disciplining their bodies to strive for the prize, not all athletes exercise the “self-control in all things” of which the apostle Paul speaks.

One glaring example of that lack of self-control is a new trend among female competitors to display much more than their athletic prowess. 

Before women even had the right to vote in the United States, the first female athletes competed in the Olympics in the year 1900 when just 2.2 percent of the Olympians were female – competing in tennis and golf.  By 2012, the Summer Olympics had more women competing than ever before – 44.3 percent of the Olympic participants were female – and the U.S. female athletes earned 29 gold medals and 58 medals in all (actually more than the U.S. male athletes earned).

These female athletes may have earned respect for their accomplishments, but a number of them in recent years have shown little self-respect as they’ve chosen to degrade themselves for the pleasure of men.

As a FOX News report stated,  “with the Sochi Games underway, recent weeks have provided a global offering of female athletes in provocative poses reminiscent of those you’d find in the pages of Playboy.”

Olympic alpine skier, Julia Mancuso, won a bronze medal earlier this week, but gained more notoriety for her explicit photos wearing nothing but skimpy underwear bottoms in the February issue of men’s magazine, GQ.

Snowboarder Hannah Teter takes “selfie” to the extreme with a sexual display of numerous erotic pictures on her Instagram account.  This follows 2010 when Hannah Teter joined with other female Olympians Lindsay Vonn, Clair Bidez, and Lacy Schnoor to pose provocatively and sometimes topless, in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.

And then there is self-proclaimed Christian athlete, Lolo Jones, who bared it all for ESPN magazine in 2009.

This trend of female athletes extolling their figures rather than their feats is not exclusive to United States athletes.  As FOX News also reported, “an official Russian team website last week released a slew of super sexy images starring its female athletes. While the young women donned lacy lingerie, see-through garments and gave the camera come-hither smiles, there was very little mention as to what they actually do in the winter games.”

These female athletes, who should be role-models setting a positive example for young girls to emulate, instead give a message to younger girls that no matter what their accomplishments are, their worth is dependent upon their sex appeal.

And sports magazines such as SI Sports Illustrated and ESPN rather than showcasing the athletic abilities of these young women as they do with men, instead focus on their cleavage, their breasts, their bodies – treating them as sexual objects to be used and discarded.

Why would these acclaimed athletes feel the need to degrade themselves?  They have been raised in the age of “women’s liberation and female empowerment” when women have more opportunities than ever before.  Some of them have fought to make it into certain sports which have been considered exclusively “men’s sports.”

And present day feminists are still taking up the torch on their behalf, as the Feminist Majority Foundation decried that “despite progress in female (Olympic) participation, inequities in treatment continued.”  And the liberal site Mother Jones reported:

“But even while more women are competing in the Olympics today than ever, they’re “still not equal in any way,” says Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a women’s advocacy group focusing on issues including sports.  …

“Beyond that, they say, blatant sexism is still a serious problem, and continues to perpetuate the misconception that women aren’t as good at sports as men.”

So, if these female athletes are fighting for respect and acceptance in the male-dominated world of sports, why would they in essence prostitute themselves as a sexual object to be leered at by men?

I think the answer is twofold.  Even female Olympic athletes are products of a culture that bombards girls and women with the message that the way to really gain attention from men is not through accomplishments, but through eroticism.  However, these young women are not merely helpless victims of a degenerate culture.  Sexism goes both ways.  From long before the first Olympics in ancient Greece, young women have learned that they have power in the sexual display of their bodies and they have used that it.  “And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.  … With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him.”  (Proverbs 7:10, 21)

From ancient times to modern day, women (and men) have desecrated their own bodies – bodies which are designed to be a temple of God Himself.

These young Olympic athletes need our prayers that they would see their worth, not as a sex symbol or even as a champion athlete, but as one who is created in the image of God.

May the Olympics be a reminder to us all to strive for the truly imperishable prize, so that at the end of our race we can say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

finishing well

Finishing well. It’s an idea we typically reserve for those approaching the last few years of life. But as a wise, older man (now with Jesus) once pointed out to me, finishing well is not simply for the elderly. In fact, it’s the choices we make now—years before we say our final “goodbyes”—that will help determine how we complete our years on earth.

The apostle Paul was a man who finished well. In his last days, he was arrested and sentenced to death for boldly proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. Knowing the end of his life was at hand, Paul wrote these words to Timothy, a young man he had mentored: “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

To Paul, finishing well began long before he penned his final words. It commenced more than 30 years earlier, after his personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9).

The years after Paul’s dramatic conversion were not easy. The book of Acts tells us that he encountered shipwrecks, beatings, prison time, religious opposition, painful personal conflicts, and more. But, by God’s power and strength, he finished the task he started as he traveled throughout the Roman Empire (Acts 20:22-24). He said, “My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:24).

Take it from Paul, the time for finishing well doesn’t start at the end. It begins now!

A man stranded by himself on an island was finally discovered. His rescuers asked him about the three huts they saw there. He pointed and said, “This one is my home and that one is my church.” He then pointed to the third hut: “That was my formerchurch.” Though we may laugh at the silliness of this story, it does highlight a concern about unity among believers.

The church of Ephesus during the time of the apostle Paul was comprised of both rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, masters and slaves. And where differences exist, so does friction. One concern Paul wrote about was the issue of unity. But observe what Paul said about this issue in Ephesians 4:3. He didn’t tell them to be “eager to produce or to organize unity.” He told them to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Unity already exists because believers share one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all (vv.4-6).

How do we “keep the unity”? By expressing our different opinions and convictions with lowliness, gentleness, and patience (v.2). The Spirit will give us the power to react in love toward those with whom we disagree.

Lord, may our walk and our service be a
picture of the unity of Father, Son, and Spirit in
heaven above. Fill us with the fruit of the Spirit
that we might love others as You desire.
Unity among believers comes from our union with Christ.


The letter to the Ephesians contains practical advice about following Christ. Today’s passage is a very clear admonition on what that entails. In verse 1, Paul asks the believers in Ephesus to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” In verses 2-3, he explains just what that means: to be lowly and gentle, patient (longsuffering), “bearing with one another in love,” and “endeavoring to keep . . . the bond of peace.” All of these elaborate on how we are to interact with those around us. What happens in our relationship with Christ impacts our other relationships.