Are You Not Entertained: Playing Instead of Praying

Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul to his spiritual son in the faith—Timothy. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses fourteen through sixteen of the third chapter. When we come to this particular passage of scripture we find the apostle Paul expressing his deep desire to make his way unto Timothy. As you read the words which the apostle Paul writes unto his spiritual son in the faith you will find the apostle Paul incredibly desirous to come unto Timothy in order that He might know of His well being and his estate. Much like the apostle when writing to previous churches within epistles he wrote unto them we find the apostle Paul expressing a deep heartfelt desire to come unto Timothy in order that they might experience a mutual edification from each other. I have to admit that what we read in this particular passage of scripture is absolutely and incredibly to powerful, for it speaks of the tremendous bond and relationship that was forged between the apostle Paul and this young man. When you read the words which like records of the apostle Paul’s first encounter with Timothy you will find that Timothy was in fact a disciple of Jesus Christ. Not only this, but you will find that Timothy was well spoken and well beloved of the Christians and saints in that region. I have to admit that I absolutely love the powerful testimony which Timothy has among the saints and Christians of Jesus Christ in that region, for it was that testimony which attracted the attention and affection of the apostle Paul. What I can’t help but ask myself and what I can’t help but be incredibly challenged by us whether or not our lives are attractive and appealing to those which are around us. We speak an awful lot about attraction as it pertains to the concept of love and romantic relationships, however, rarely do we speak of attraction as it pertains to our witness and testimony among men within the earth. The question I am forced to ask concerning myself is whether or not the testimony and witness of my life is attractive to those who are around me.

I absolutely love the tremendous desire the apostle Paul has for and toward Timothy—not only when he first encountered him in the region where he lived with his mother and grandmother, but also in the coming days, weeks, months, and perhaps even years. It is safe to say that the affection and desire which the apostle Paul has toward this young men remained hot and fervent within and throughout the years—a reality which is aptly displayed and demonstrated within the epistles the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy. As I continue along these lines I am not only gripped and captivated by the reality that this affection and desire was first experienced and found when the apostle Paul first encountered Timothy, but it was also forged through the fires of affliction, adversity and conflict. If you spend time continuing to read within the New Testament book of the Acts you will find that that when Paul traveled unto the region he brought with him Silas and Timothy unto Thessalonica. If you read the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that while in the city of Thessalonica there was a great opposition which rose up against the apostle Paul and the proclamation of the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. As you read the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts you will find that because the Jews burned with envy toward the apostle Paul and could not partake of the gospel which he was preached concerning Christ, they created an uproar among the people within the city. What’s more, is that the Jews sought to invite a riot and tremendous conflict within the city in an attempt to destroy the influence of the gospel of Christ within the earth. When the opposition and affliction became too much you will read how the brethren sought to bring Paul out of the city by night, and brought him unto the region of Berea. When the apostle Paul was at Berea he preached the gospel concerning Jesus Christ among the Jews and Gentiles which were there. Scripture records how the Bereans were more noble in that they received the word with joy and searched the scriptures to see if what was being preached was indeed and was in fact true.

What I love about the apostles desire and affection toward Timothy is that it is without a doubt and absolutely unmistakable that this desire and affection was forged and fueled in the furnace and fires of affliction which the apostle Paul experiences together with Timothy and Silas. When you read the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that Silas and Timothy were present with Paul—both in the city of Thessalonica, as well as within the city of Berea when affliction, opposition and conflict erupted and broke out against them and the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. I have to admit that there is something about conflict and affliction that not only forged, but also strengthens the bond between the brethren. There is something incredibly powerful about affliction and conflict that helps to forge a powerful bond of affection and desire between brothers—a reality which is perfectly seen and witnessed when you enlist in the army and any additional branch of the military. If you ask anyone who has served in the military you will find that they will all declare that there is something about engaging in conflict of battle and warfare that strengthens and enhances and forged a bond between them and those in their squad or those in their battalion. In fact, you will almost always here those who are engaged in the conflict and struggle of war and battle refer to those who have fought and trained alongside them as brothers. In fact, there was a show on one of the premium networks several years ago called Band of Brothers, and I can’t help but be captivated by the reality and concept of a brotherhood and bond that is forged in the fires of conflict and battle—particular and especially when you speak along the lines of war. I can’t help but think of how many bonds and relationships were formed and forged within the very fires of adversity and conflict—particularly and especially when we speak along the lines of war. I can’t help but think about what training together with someone for war, and then actually fighting alongside someone n war and battle does to strengthen and enhance the bond that exists between brothers who have engaged themselves in conflict.

As we come to this particular passage of Scripture within the first epistle of the apostle Paul written unto Timothy we find the apostle Paul expressing unto Timothy that the reason for his writing these things unto him was because of his earnest desire to come unto him shortly. In the heart and mind of the apostle Paul he was overwhelmed with a powerful and tangible desire to come unto Timothy who undoubtedly at this time was present among the saints of Ephesus. When you come to the beginning of this particular epistle you will find the apostle Paul referencing his command and instruction unto Timothy to abide still in the city of Ephesus in order that he might guide and instruct the church in the matters of righteousness. Consider if you will the words and language which is found in the opening portion of this particular epistle which was written unto Timothy: “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which. Minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do” (1 Timothy 1:3-4). It is clear from the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in this passage of Scripture that when the apostle was making his journey from the city of Ephesus, he urged and besought Timothy that he would remain and abide in Ephesus in order that he might instruct the church. This is actually quite remarkable and astounding—particularly and especially when you consider the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto the Ephesian elders when he was came unto them to impart final words unto them.

“Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministers unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:18-35).

It is actually quite telling and quite revealing when you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy, for the instruction which the apostle Paul wrote unto him directly pertained to the ministry among the house of God in Ephesus, as well as his own personal conduct among the saints, and among those which were outside of the fold of God. When we read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in this particular passage of Scripture we find him desiring to come unto Timothy—perhaps to strengthen and encourage him in the face of the tremendous task and responsibility of ministry which was before him among the saints and church in Ephesus. The apostle Paul spoke unto and revealed unto the elders of Ephesus that after he departed from them would grievous wolves enter in among them, which would not spare the flock. Moreover, of their own persons men would arise, which would speak perverse things, in order to draw away disciples after them. Prior to his final departure from the region, the apostle Paul warned the elders of Ephesus of the tremendous dangers which lie ahead and before them as it pertained to false brethren and false apostles and false teachers. The apostle knew by the Spirit that there would be a tremendous opposition that would rise up among these saints, which would directly seek to entice and draw them away from the truth that was in the gospel. In fact, this is precisely why the apostle Paul wrote not only one, but two epistles unto Timothy, for the apostle Paul knew that Timothy was directly in the heat and was directly in the thick of the conflict in the Spirit which was present within this particular congregation and church. From the outset of the epistle the apostle Paul reminded Timothy of the reason and purpose he was instructed to remain in Ephesus—namely, to ensure that correct doctrine was preached and practiced among the saints which were present within this church. The apostle Paul left Timothy among the saints of this congregation in order that he might not only strengthen and encourage them, but also that he might combat the false doctrines and false teachings that would rise and spring up among them in their midst. There was within the city of Ephesus while the apostle Paul was still there a tremendous uproar that rose up concerning the temple of Diana and the image which they believe fell down from Jupiter. As a direct result of the riot and uproar, the apostle Paul instructed Timothy to remain within this city in order that he might directly combat the false teaching, and the false doctrine that would rise up within it.

What we must recognize and understand is that there was a tremendous presence of false teaching and false doctrine which was present among and within the church in Ephesus, for when you come to the second chapter of the New Testament prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will find Jesus Christ Himself sending a letter unto this particular church and congregation. Consider if you will the words which we find recorded in the second chapter of the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ beginning with the first verse of the second chapter: “Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hates the deeds of the NIcolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:1-7). Within this particular passage of Scripture we find Jesus Christ Himself speaking unto this church concerning those among them which claimed they were apostles, and found them to be liars. Within this particular letter sent by Jesus unto this congregation we find that there was present among this congregation the presence of a group of individuals known as the NIcolaitans, which were essentially a group which practiced and preached a doctrine which was different and contrary to that which the apostle Paul, Timothy, and even the apostle John had preached among them. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the tremendous conflict that began to rise up within the churches in Asia as false teachers, false brethren, false apostles, and false prophets rose up from among them in their midst.

I absolutely love that which I find and that which I read in this particular passage of Scripture, for within this passage of Scripture the apostle Paul speaks unto Timothy and declares unto him that if he should tarry long and could not immediately come unto him, he desired that Timothy would know how he ought to behave himself in the house of God. In all reality, this is precisely what this epistle was centered upon, for the apostle Paul was not only concerned that Timothy knew how he himself should behave himself in the house of God, but the apostle Paul was concerned that the saints of God themselves know how to behave and conduct themselves in the house of God. There is a particular passage in the Old Testament book of Exodus which I must present at this juncture which I am convinced describes what is taking place in a number of churches and houses of worship within and throughout this nation of ours. If you begin reading with the first verse of the thirty-second chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus you will find the following words which described the account of the children of Israel at the foot and base of the mountain of God in the wilderness of Sinai. Consider if you will the account of the children of Israel at the foot of Sinai beginning with the first verse of the thirty-second chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus:

“And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the Lord. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (Exodus 32:1-6).

What makes what we find and read in this particular passage of Scripture so incredibly challenging is that the children of Israel had just been delivered out of the slavery and oppression of Egypt, and they had witnessed the destruction of their enemies in the waters of the Red Sea. The children of israel had come unto the mountain of God in the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord had descended upon the mountain of God in a thick cloud, fire, thunder, lightning, and a loud trumpet. With the glory of the Lord still very much real and very much present atop the mountain, the children of Israel attempted to build and form for themselves gods which they could worship—gods which were tangible before and among them. I can’t help but be reminded of the account of the glory of the Lord atop the mountain of God in the wilderness as it is recorded in the nineteenth chapter of the book of Exodus: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day: for the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai. And thou shalt set bounds unto the people round about, saying, Take heed to yourselves, that ye go not up into the mount, or touch the border of it: whosoever toucheth the mount shall be surely put to death: there shall not an hand touch it, but he shall surely be stoned, or shot through; whether it be beast or man, it shall not live: when the trumpet Sounders long, they shall come up to the mount. And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes. And he said unto the people, Be ready against the third day: come not at your wives. And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and Lightnings, and a thick blood upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered Him by a voice. And the Lord came down upon mount Sinai, on the top of the mount: and the Lord called Moses up to the top of the mount; and Moses went up” (Exodus 19:10-20).

As you continue reading this Old Testament book concerning the account of the children of Israel there in the wilderness you will find that when the Lord would have had them remain in His presence and draw near to Him, they actually shrank back in fear. IN all reality, I am convinced that it was this first act of shrinking back in fear which would ultimately lead them to calling upon Aaron to build the golden calf there at the foot of the mountain. What began with the forming and fashioning of the golden calf would first begin here at the foot of the mountain when they shrank back in fear. Consider if you will the account of the children of israel as it is recorded in the latter part of the twentieth chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus: “And all the people saw the thundering, and the lightning, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with from heaven. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold. An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build of it hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon” (Exodus 20:18-26).

That which we find in this particular passage of Scripture is quite astonishing and remarkable when you consider it, for what began with the people of Israel shrinking back in fear would ultimately lead them to an utter dependence on Moses to speak unto them rather than and instead of God. This is incredibly important, for directly linked within this particular passage of Scripture is a common not to build or fashion unto themselves images made of gold. Furthermore, the Lord would go on to instruct them to make for Him an altar of the earth in order that they might present unto Him their sacrifices and offerings. It is what we find and what we read here that ultimately sets the stage and sets the tone for what we read in the thirty-second chapter of this Old Testament book, for not only did the children of Israel form for themselves a golden calf, but they also worshipped God in the image they had made. In other words, they attempted to worship the Lord in the image of the golden calf which they had made before them at the foot of the mountain. What’s more, is that this image and this golden calf was formed and fashioned at the foot of the mountain, and while it was not directly in the presence and the midst of the glory of God, it was nonetheless directly linked and connected to it. We dare not miss the tremendous significance of this reality, for it brings us face to face with a reality that is present within countless of our churches and houses of worship in this generation and within this nation. I am convinced that there are countless churches and ministries which are doing nothing more than worshipping God in the image(s) they have made. What’s more, is that they are directly linking and mixing entertainment and the need to be stimulated with this reality of worshipping God in the image they have made. You will notice how it is recorded of the children of Israel how they rose up early the next morning in order that they might eat, in order that they might drink, and in order that they might pray. In essence and in all reality, that which they were doing was replacing “praying” with “playing”—a reality which I am convinced is present within countless churches within and throughout this nation. I am utterly and completely convinced that there are countless churches and ministries which instead of praying before and praying unto the true and living God are playing [games] in the presence of God, and are worshipping God in the image they have made. Not only this, but they are also intermingling entertainment and the need to be entertained and stimulated in the presence of God just as the children of Israel did in the wilderness. We must recognize that this not only touches the realm of worship, but also the realm of preaching, for there are countless saints among us who desire to be stimulated, and to have their senses tickled—not only when it comes to worship, but also when it comes to preaching.

There is a particular passage found in the Old Testament book of Proverbs which I am convinced utterly and completely touches upon this reality, and how we as the saints of God are to behave and conduct ourselves in the house of the Lord. If you turn and direct your attention to the fifth chapter of the Old Testament poetic book of Ecclesiastes, you will find a powerful passage of Scripture that directly describes how we are to act, and how we are to conduct ourselves in the presence of God, and when we come unto Him in His house. Consider if you will the words which Solomon wrote in the fifth chapter of this chapter beginning with the first verse of the chapter: “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh though the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that you shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7). I am also reminded of the words which our Lord Jesus spoke unto all those who gathered unto Him in the Sermon on the Mount. Consider if you will the words which He spoke—words which are recorded for us beginning with the first verse of the sixth chapter: “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much sxpeaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But. Thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-18).

What I find to be so incredibly challenging when reading this passage of scripture is not only the direct connection between one’s behavior in the house of God, but also what the apostle Paul refers to as “the mystery of godliness.” It’s absolutely powerful that this mystery of godliness has absolutely nothing to do with anything we have done, nor even anything that we can do. When you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote you will discover that this mystery of godliness is directly connected to that which Jesus has done, this revealing that at the very heart and center of godliness is the work which Jesus Christ performed on the earth. If we are going to truly understand the reality of godliness within our hearts and lives we must understand that not only is Jesus Christ at the very center of our godliness, but Jesus Christ is the foundation upon which godliness is built. I find it absolutely incredible how the apostle Paul directly linked and connected godliness and behavior in the house of God, for if we are truly going to understand how we are to behave and conduct ourselves in the house of God we must recognize that at the very heart of this behavior is a godliness which is produced by the work which Jesus Christ did—not only on the cross, but also in the grave, and once He rose from the grave and ascended to the right hand of the Father who is in heaven. In all reality, this first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote not only pertained to behavior in the house of God, but it also pertained to and touched upon the mystery of godliness which is mentioned no more than nine times within the epistle. If there is one thing we must take away from what we find and what we read in this epistle it’s the direct connection between godliness within our hearts and lives and how we conduct ourselves in the house of the Lord. I am utterly and completely convinced that we as the saints of God need to be absolutely aware of how we are to conduct ourselves and how we are to behave in the house of the Lord, and not that we would be like the children of Israel who worshipped God in the image they made, sought to be entertained, and played when they should have prayed.

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