Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Charge

righteous

I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom; Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not.   2 Timothy 4:1-2 HCSB

Paul was on the home stretch of his life as he wrote these words.  He was imprisoned in Rome and he knew that he was soon going to be executed.  He was writing to Timothy, a follower of Jesus that was at least 25 years younger than Paul.  Paul had discipled him and now he was passing the baton on to Timothy and he wanted to ensure that the Gospel message wouldn’t be lost, watered down, or changed in any way.

Paul was  giving Timothy the charge of maintaining the most important things because he knew he was soon to be executed.   Timothy was to carry on the torch that has been eventually passed on to us, almost 2000 years later.  Why was Timothy to keep the Gospel message going?   Paul gave Timothy three reasons why he should take the baton and run with it, and those reasons apply to us today.

  1. Because of the judgment that awaits all of us.  2 Corinthians 5:10 states, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”  Paul included the judgment in his presentation of the Gospel.  In Acts 24:25 we find that for two years Paul shared with Felix the governor while imprisoned, reasoning about righteousness, self-control and the coming judgment.
  2. Because of Christ’s appearing.  Jesus is coming back, this we know for sure.  In the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25, Jesus told about how five were foolish and five were wise.  The wise ones were ready for the Bridegroom’s returning.  The foolish ones slept and the groom said, “I don’t know you.”    In 2 Timothy 4 Paul talked about receiving the crown of righteousness, not just for him, but “for all those who have loved His appearing.”
  3. Because of Christ’s kingdom.  Most of the parables that Jesus told, especially toward the end of His ministry, were about the kingdom of God.  After Jesus returns and defeats Satan, He will establish an 1000 year actual physical kingdom here on earth.  According to Luke 19 and the parable of the ten minas, what we do during our lives determines our lot in His kingdom.

All three of the things that motivated Paul to proclaim the message of the Gospel must motivate us.  We don’t want to get to the end of our lives and find that we had wasted our words on things that have absolutely no eternal value.  We aren’t all called to be pastors and teachers, but we are all commanded  to proclaim the good news of Jesus in our own way, using the gifts that God has given us–whether convenient or not, in season and out.  


You have to watch this!

http://inspirationbygod.net/3550/an-unbelievable-artist-in-the-ocean/

This is a video of a male Japanese puffer fish who makes a design to attract a mate.  This speaks loudly of God’s handiwork, without saying a word!

“Do you give the horse its strength?  Do you clothe its neck with a mane?  Do you make it leap like a locust?  Its proud neighing is terrifying!

Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars, and spreads its wings toward the south?  Is it at your command that the eagle soars, and builds its nest on high?”

Job 39:19-20, 26-27  42:2

“Lift up your eyes on high and see; who created these?  He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power not one is missing…Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.”  Isaiah 40:26,28

 


Are you a “good” person, or a Godly person?

good personHaving the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.  2 Timothy 3:5

The verses before this one in 2 Timothy don’t paint a good picture.  Paul wrote that in the last days difficult times would come.  He said that people would be lovers of self and lovers of money, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, amongst other descriptors.  Well that pretty much describes our “selfie” culture, doesn’t it?

Then Paul  said that people would have an appearance of godliness, but deny its power. People who consider themselves to be atheists or nonreligious wouldn’t have an appearance of godliness, nor would they attempt to do so.  It is Christians that would consider themselves godly.   But Paul wrote that many will deny the power that comes through godliness.

I’ve always taken this verse as meaning that we deny God’s power, like the power that comes from accessing the Holy Spirit, the power of the Bible, and the power of prayer.  So many people that are Christians don’t put their money where their mouth is when it comes to those three areas.  They say they believe in prayer, but don’t come to prayer meetings.  They say that the Word is able to change lives and equip us for every good work, but they don’t really read and study it much.  And they may or may not say that they have a relationship with the Holy Spirit.  Many people I know would shy away from that topic.

Lately I’ve been thinking about people I know who say they don’t read the Bible, but call themselves Christians.  I would describe them as “good” people, but not godly people.  There isn’t much power in being a good person, but there is in being godly.   It is making every effort to be diligent, kind, gentle, honest, filled with integrity in everything you do.  It means keeping a clean conscience before God and before others.  We would call that holiness, and that’s something we don’t emphasize much these days.  I guess people think that’s old school or legalistic in this day of grace.  But yet, there is power in it.

Don’t deny the power that comes from godliness.  Positively stated, if you make godliness a priority, you will be fruitful and effective in your Christian life, as 2 Peter 1:8 promises.  It will also keep you from being a lover of self, of money and of pleasure, rather than a love of God.

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”  2 Timothy 3:2-5

 

*Image from walkingchristian.com


What has God done in your life?

Psalm 107, various verses

psalm 107(2) Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble, (8-22) Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!  For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.  Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High.  

So He bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.  He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart.  Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!  For He shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.  He sent out His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.

(35-38)  He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.  And there He lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield.  By His blessing they multiply greatly, and He does not let their livestock diminish.

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” is another way of saying:  “Tell how God has saved you, blessed you and worked in your life.”  He has done great things and He is good.  Some of you have been redeemed from trouble because you have rebelled against the words of God.  You used to play the victim card, or wonder why life has been so hard on you.  But now you realize that the trouble you have been in has been because of your rebellion.  Or maybe you’re still figuring that out.  You have called out to Jesus, and He has saved you.  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

Others of you have maybe had rough things in your life that were unexpected.  The life you’re living now isn’t the one you dreamt of when you graduated from high school.  The hard knocks have left you hungry and thirsty, and when you called out to God, He answered you.  He has turned your desert into a pool of water.

As for me, I praise God for showing Himself to me at an early age through a Vacation Bible School.  He used two humble ladies who diligently came to my little farm community each summer for 35 years to show me the words of life that come through life in Him.  Though I have had short spells of stupidity and rebellion, I am thankful that God has pulled me out of them to follow hard after Him.  He has truly placed me near springs of water.

What has God done in your life?  What does your psalm of praise look like?  Who can you tell of the great things God has done?

 

*Graphic from Bulldozer Faith

 


Handle with Care

But reject foolish and ignorant arguments, knowing that they breed quarrels.  The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness.  2 Timothy 2:24-25 HCSB          

     gentleness quote.png

Proclaim the message.  Persist in it, whether convenient or not.  Rebuke, correct and encourage with great patience and teaching.  2 Timothy 4:2  HCSB

 

Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5 NIV

We’ve been studying 2 Timothy in our women’s Sunday school class.  One of the challenges was to memorize 2 Timothy, which I took on.  Surprisingly, it only took me about a month to get it.  As I’ve memorized it and reviewed it since then, the verses about gentleness have echoed in my head over and over.

It must be something God wants me to develop, because I keep getting many opportunities to put gentleness into practice.  One of the responsibilities as an Elementary Principal involves dealing with parents.  Over the last few months, I have had a few parents who have been unreasonable, irrational and argumentative.  Sometimes it seems that they are just waiting to jump on someone, and the minute the slightest issue comes up, they pounce.

While these parents are chipping and chewing, these verses keep playing in the background.  I want to spit back and show them the holes in their thinking and actions.  Then there’s the part about not engaging in quarrels and rejecting foolish and ignorant arguments.  I call it “picking my battles.”

I don’t think that I am the only one who has to deal with argumentative, unreasonable people.  We all do.  How we deal with them reflects what is inside and Who we belong to.  One of the fruits of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5, is gentleness.  That means that as the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in us, gentleness comes out like an air freshener.  I wish it was just that easy.  There is an aspect of me diligently working on gentleness, or any other fruit or character trait that makes me more like Jesus than like my old, grumpy self.

I pray in the morning to put on kindness, compassion, gentleness, humility and patience as listed in Colossians 3.  But I still have to consciously be gentle in my interactions with difficult people.  It’s kind of like if someone else finds a job for you, answering a prayer for employment and money to pay the bills.   You still have to get out of bed each morning and go to work.  And once there, you have to fulfill the job expectations.  We have a part to play in the process.

So it is with gentleness.  God works in me as I call upon Him as I daily keep in step with the Spirit.  In Jerry Bridges’ book called “The Practice of Godliness,” he recommends memorizing verses about the character issue that you are working on. Hence, the above verses to memorize and to put into practice.  God, work Your gentleness in and through me today, in Jesus’ name!


More on fighting the good fight of faith

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds.  He struck down two ariels (mightiest warriors) of Moab.  He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.  And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man.  The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.  These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men.   2 Samuel 23:20-23

Benaiah-600x600.jpg I stumbled on this quirky account the other day in my Bible reading.   It has caused my mind to go in many directions.  Here is this guy who probably wasn’t on the motivational speaker circuit.  Benaiah just did mighty things.  He struck down two of Moab’s mightiest warriors and a handsome Egyptian.  And he followed a lion into a pit on a snowy day and killed him.

In 1 Chronicles 11:23 the story about the Egyptian is told as well, adding the detail that he was 7 ½ feet tall.  So Benaiah killed a giant and was a lion chaser.  That’s a pretty good resume.  Because of his exploits, he got to be one of King David’s body guards.  We might not have giants and lions to contend with, but we have figurative ones that are just as daunting.  Benaiah didn’t run away from danger, he took it on and won.  I want to be that kind of person.

I’ve often thought that when David fought Goliath, he might have looked right over his nine foot tall head to see a mighty angel that was twenty feet tall, or even God almighty who is taller yet.  He didn’t see the size of the enemy, just the size of his God.  When the twelve spies went into the Promised Land, ten of them came back saying there were giants and called them to not take the land.   Caleb and Joshua didn’t have their eyes on the giants, but on their God who was bigger than the giants.  In fighting against the world, our flesh and the devil, we need the same view of our big God.  We need a mindset that sees the sufficiency of God rather than the size of our opposition.

Also, in a study done about grit by Angela Duckworth at Harvard, she found that the most prominent contributing factor in successful people wasn’t how smart, talented, or rich a person was.  The biggest factor was grit.  Grit is a dogged determination that never quits.  Grit is the bounce that enables us to get back up when we’re knocked down.  To fight a good fight we need faith, we need grit.

Finally, to fight the good fight,  we need obedience.  That’s how we can call it a ‘good’ fight, and not a dirty one, a crooked one, or one that took short cuts.

I want to be a lion chaser, one that kills giants, not a quitter, a coward or a cheater.  How about you?


Fight the good fight!

…Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of the faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  1 Timothy 6:11-12

So we are to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness.  What does it look like to pursue those things? We have to run after them, like we would pursue a dream, or a love relationship.  If we love something or someone, we’re going to pursue that person or thing.  In the midst of running after righteousness, godliness and the rest, the key is to run after God.

Some questions to ponder today: Does God have your heart?  Does He capture your affections, your time, your energy, and even your daydreaming?  What does capture your affections, if it’s not God?  And what do you need to get rid of that is stealing away your attention and devotion?

boxing glovesHere’s the fight part:  It is a fight to drive away the competing attention getters and to be able to flee sin, bad company and bad habits.  I was just talking with four women in jail about this.  They know about Jesus and want to follow Him, but the difficulty for them is to abandon the old life, especially because they don’t have the resources to just move to another community and to start all over.  We talked about Hebrews 12:4 that states: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

We also talked about Matthew 5:30 where it says, “If your right hand causes you stumble, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into Hell.”  Now that’s a fight.  Jesus’ call on our lives is a radical one, not ho hum.  For some people it is really a big switch to go from walking like a child of darkness to one of light.

We are at war with the world, Satan, and our own flesh.  The ‘world’ belongs to this world, and Satan is the ruler of it, according to John 14:30 where Jesus says, “The ruler of this world is coming.”  Satan is the father of lies and our enemy.  He seeks to steal, kill and destroy, according to John 10:10.  We can’t just “go with the flow” because the world’s flow goes the opposite direction of godliness and righteousness.  Finally, Peter writes in 1 Peter 2:11 to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”  Have you ever felt that civil war?

              Three things to think about in the fight that counteracts the world,                                         the flesh and the Devil:

  1. The Word renews our mind, and so does the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:1-2 and Titus 3:5).  Get into the Bible and stay in it.  Call on the Holy Spirit to empower you and to fight the flesh battle for you.
  2. Take your thoughts captive.  That’s 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  Don’t be lazy about it.
  3. Learn and remember who you are in Christ.  Ephesians 2:3 says that we once were children of wrath, but that’s not who we are anymore.  We are children of the King and His Spirit lives in us.  1 Corinthians 6:11 tells us we used to be swindlers, drunkards, revilers, etc. but now we “have been sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.

 


God is looking for you

ManLookingUp-e1302142068361

When the goodness and kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy.  Titus 3:4-5

 

According to Genesis 3:9, the first thing God asked Adam and Eve after they sinned was, “Where are you?”  Adam and Eve were hiding and had covered themselves with fig leaves.  They were now separated from their walks with God in the cool of the evening and were probably filled with shame.  But God called them out.  He went looking for them.

That’s what God does for all of us.  He’s that kind of God.  In John 1:38-39 Jesus did the same thing.  John the Baptist had just announced to his followers, “Behold the Lamb of God!” Andrew and John were there and it was their first meeting with Jesus.  Jesus asked them, “What are you seeking?”  They asked where He was staying and He said, “Come and you will see.”  Jesus invited them to get to know Him, and  He wanted to get to know them.

I must stay at your house todayYou might think that if it was you standing there, Jesus wouldn’t have invited you over.  Not you.  Check out Luke 19 and the story of Zacchaeus.  He was a tax collector, which was synonymous with crook and outcast.  Jesus was passing through Jericho and everyone wanted to see Him.  There was such a crowd that Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to get a view.  Out of the entire crowd of people, Jesus looked up to Zacchaeus, called him by name, and told Zacchaeus that He wanted to go to his house.  Zacchaeus was looking for Jesus and Jesus was looking for him.

Luke 19:10 sums it all up: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  Our power verse says the same thing.  The goodness and kindness of God appeared in the form of Jesus and He saved us.  He came looking for us.  Do you suppose it was a coincidence in John 4 that Jesus just happened to run into the woman at the well?  I think Jesus went at that time and sent the disciples to town to look for food because He was looking for her.  In 2 Chronicles 16:9 it says that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro, looking to support those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.  I would say to those who are calling out to Him.  When we call out to God in our desperacy and loneliness, contempt and hunger, He finds us.  God sends someone to point you to Him.

Because of God’s goodness, kindness and mercy, He keeps calling to us, “Where are you?” when we sin and hide.  We might be hiding in work, in shopping, in partying, or in obscurity.  But God calls us out.  He doesn’t want us to be covered with fig leaves, our own way of taking care of the consequences of our sin.  He wants us to be covered by his provision, the blood of Jesus.  When we think God doesn’t see us, or know our name, or know what we’ve been through, He does.  And He picks us out of the crowd and announces, “I’m coming to your house, so get out of that tree.”

One more Biblical example.  Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples and he blew it when Jesus needed him the most.  Peter denied that he knew Jesus when Jesus was arrested and facing the kangaroo courts.  Peter said, “I don’t know Him.”  Now Jesus has risen and Peter has to face his denial.  Jesus didn’t wait for Peter to come to Him to fess up.  I’m guessing Peter didn’t even know how to fix it and wondered if Jesus could ever use such a coward.

Not so.  In John 21 we find the opposite.  Peter and the guys were out fishing, most likely wondering what their lives were going to look like now.  They see a guy on the shore and He says, “Cast the net on the right side,” and boom!  They catch 153 fish after getting blanked the whole night.  Peter was the first to shout, “It’s Jesus!”  Peter ran through the waist deep water to get to Him.  And there was a breakfast of fish waiting for them, their favorite.

Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him.  He asked three times.  It was through that dialogue that Jesus restored Peter and told him, “Feed my sheep.”  In other words, “I’ve got a plan for you.  I’m not benching you.  I love you.”

It’s the kindness, goodness and mercy of God at work in your life to enable you to call out to Him.  He’s calling out to you. He has saved you, and you can rejoice.  Not only that, but you can tell others. Psalm 40:9-10 reads, I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; behold, I have not restrained my lips, as You know, O Lord.  I have not hidden Your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness from the great congregation.

 

*Photo from the Brook Network


God’s Gym

train

Train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.  1 Timothy 4:7-8

I belong to a gym.  I haven’t always put time into working out, but have made it a habit the last few years.  There are times that I’ve driven away from working out thinking about how much time I’ve put into the gym that week compared to how much time I’ve put into studying the Bible and praying. Or thinking about how much time have I put into doing something for the Kingdom that has eternal value.  It doesn’t always match up, like my time working out far outweighs my time in the Word.

As a culture, and as a Christian culture, I would bet that most of us could say we put more time into bodily training.  There are times when I needed to put more time into bodily training, as I let things get unbalanced the other way and my health and weight suffered.  While getting in shape and trying to be healthy is a good goal, training for godliness is an even better goal.  It not only helps us in this life, but “also for the life to come.”  In other words, there will be some sort of reward or value gained by becoming godly.

I have a pretty good idea of what it would take to get in tip top physical shape, whether or not I ever actually get there.  But how to get in spiritual shape is another question.  How do we train ourselves for godliness?  Paul gives  some ideas as you continue to read in 1 Timothy 4.  “Toil and strive,” “Command and teach these things,” “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching,”  “Do not neglect the gift you have,” “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them,” “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching,” and finally: “Persist in this.”

In other words, becoming godly doesn’t just happen.  In 2 Peter 1:3-4, Peter wrote that, His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature.  God has given us His power to live a godly life and He has given us His very great promises so that if we walk them out, our character becomes more like Jesus’ character.  

Peter continued in the verses following that to say: Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Peter 1: 5-8.  

We don’t talk much about self restraint, godliness, and toiling, striving and immersing ourselves in godly character traits.  We need to.  It holds value for this life and the one to come.  If we are godly, we will be effective and fruitful.  When we train for godliness, it doesn’t look the same as training for a 5K.  Instead, we call on God’s divine power, we stand on His very great promises and we practice self control, persisting even through discouraging times, brotherly love and affection.  We don’t neglect our spiritual gifting and we take great pains to practice obedience and to teach it to others.  

Finally, developing good habits are a way to build good character.  For instance, Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us not to neglect meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.  Our habits are one of the most important things about who we are.  Build good habits into your daily and weekly routine that point to the list in 2 Peter 1, just like exercising and eating well points to good overall health.

It’s time to get to God’s gym.