Monday, March 31, 2014

Paul Writes to Titus

Paul writes to another pastor by the name of Titus. His letter is brief but clear. It contains practical instructive principles of how to live.   We tend to forget that they did not have the book we now call the New Testament, but studied the Old Testament.

So there was a need to explain the scriptures as they applied to their culture, much as we need to discuss it today.  Jesus said "Do not think I came to abolish the law  or the prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-19).

We know he is not  saying animal sacrifices for sins should continue, because he came to fulfill that, as he is the only sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:1-4; Romans 10:4).  But the principles and the commands of how to live remain.

Paul begins his letter, "Paul, a bond servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness".

Friday, March 28, 2014

Closing Remarks

Paul ends his letter to Timothy, "The Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit: Grace be with you. Amen (2 Timothy 4:22).

Jesus not only said, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20), He said that He and his Father and the Holy Spirit will abide in the ones who obey his words and love him (John 14:15-18, 23 ).

"If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31-32).  In other words, we will have all the grace we need to remain steadfast in the things of God. When we are consciously aware of his Grace abounding in and toward us, we can be at peace while standing firm.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Friends in Danger

I am thankful Paul's letters mention his friends by name.  Paul is one of those honest and authentic people.  He does not pull any punches.  He is exactly as he appears to be.  He recognizes that he has faults (1 Cor 4:1-7, 11-17) and that he needs his friends.

We have been studying his letter to one of his dearest friends and companions.  His friends brought him his coat.  They ministered to his needs even when it was dangerous to do so (2 Cor 11;22-26; Philippians 2:22-29). We need personal friends.

True friends are not a dime a dozen.  It takes both time and trials to discover those who honestly love us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I Need My Coat

"Do your utmost to come before winter" (2 Timothy 4:21).  Notice in verse 13 he is asking Timothy to bring him his cloak when he comes.  In the book of John it mentions the soldiers and servants making a fire of coals because it was cold (John 18:18).  In chapter 10 of the book of John it makes a connection between the fact that it was winter and Jesus was walking in Solomon's court in the Temple.  Paul needed Timothy to bring him his coat before it got too cold.

Being a spiritual person does not remove our physical needs.  We need to warm ourselves, eat healthy food, go to the hospital if our bodies need to be mended.  We are indeed spiritual beings, but we are spiritual beings currently housed in human bodies.

Scripture does not ignore the physical world (Gen 8:22; Ps 74:17; Song of Songs 2:11; Mt 24:20; Acts 27:12; 1Cor 16:6; Titus 3:12).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Leaving a Sick Friend

Paul writes, "Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick."   Evidently Trophimus had planned to come with Paul, but his illness changed their plans.

James writes, "Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and The Lord will raise him up" (James 5:14-16).  So why did't Paul pray for the man and The Lord heal him?

Scripture does not tell us if Paul had prayed or not (I an confident he did) nor why his friend was not healed.  Paul earlier wrote to the believers at Galatia, "You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.  And my trial which was in my flesh you did not dispose or reject, but you received me as an angel of God..." (Galatians 4:13-14).

We do not know why The Lord had not yet healed Paul's friend.  Nor do we know how Paul's physical infirmity provided the opportunity for Paul to preach the gospel to the Galatians.  However, we can fairly conclude, God may have a purpose even in our illness.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Sure Treasure

 "And The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for his heavenly kingdom" (2 Timothy 4:18).

These words and other like promises are a precious treasure:  "If God be for us, who can be against us?  If He did not spare his own son, but delivered Him up for us all, shall He not with Him, freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:31).

"...God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were His enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His son, much more, having been reconciled we shall be saved through His life" (Romans 5:8-10).

Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid (John 14:27).  You will remain faithful to God and he will deliver you from the plans of your enemies (Psalm 1:2-4; Isaiah 54:17; Ephesians 1:6; Hebrews 14:4;

Friday, March 21, 2014

Not Unscathed

Paul's trial was extremely difficult.  His enemies wanted to take his life, and many of his friends forsook him out of fear (2 Timothy 4:14-16). He writes "But The Lord strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me..."  "And The Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.  To Him be glory forever.  Amen!" (2 Timothy 4:17-18).

Seek God's strength. You cannot come out of this kind of trial unscathed unless God does a work inside of you.  If you call on him, he will answer you (Romans 10:11-13, Psalm 91).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Getting Angry About It

Paul is angry and hurt.  "Alexander the coppersmiths did me much harm.  May The Lord repay him according to his works...At my first defense, no one stood with me, but all forsook me.  May it not be charged against them" (2 Timothy 4:14-16).  He prays that God takes revenge on one of his enemies, but asks God to forgive those who left him in his greatest hour of need.  Why pray against one and for the other?

We sometimes put so much focus on God's mercy and forgiveness that we tend to condemn all anger.  But the scripture does not teach against rightful anger.  A man with a withered hand came into the synagogue and the Pharisees "watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so they might accuse Him." Jesus healed the man.  "Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with Herodians against Him. (Mark 3:1-6)

Jesus prayed that God would forgive those who crucified him because they did not understand what they were doing.  But he said of the Pharisees that their sins would not be forgiven because they knew what they were doing (John 9:40-41, 11:41-53).

There will be times when we must purposely walk away from those who harm us (Mark 10:14-15).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Paul Needs John Mark

Was there any difference between John Mark leaving Paul and Barnabas during their earlier missionary trip and Demas leaving Paul now?

It was in John Mark's mother's home where they had the all night prayer meeting for Peter's release from prison (Acts 12).  John Mark was Barnabas' nephew, and had seen and experienced miracles.  His ministry was undoubtedly different than Paul's. Barnabas understood this, but Paul had been irritated when John Mark had gone off on his own (Acts 15). Perhaps, John Mark would have been wiser to finish the trip, but he did not forsake God.

Demas, on the other hand, walked away from the faith because he stumbled over the things in the world.  It is quite possible that Paul had Demas in mind when he wrote to Timothy, "they will not endure sound doctrine but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap unto themselves teachers; they will turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Paul felt the pain of Demas forsaking the truth. "Be diligent to come to me quickly, for Demas has forsaken me..."  It can be devastating when someone we know, no longer serves God.  We need the comfort and strength that comes from one another.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

John Mark

Paul is grieved because Demus has left the ministry and returned the ways of the world.  He then asks that Mark come to him because , "He is good for the ministry(2 Timothy 2:11).  The reason this simple request is significant is because Paul and Barnabas had argued over this same man in Acts chapter 15.  Mark had been traveling with them previously, but had left and gone to a different city.  Paul interpreted Mark leaving as forsaking him and the ministry.

The argument had been so great that Paul and Barnabas had split up.  Paul took Silas and Barnabas took John Mark, going in opposite directions to preach.  Now Paul is asking that same young man to come to him because he is good for the ministry.

We need to guard against our tendency to judge another because their decision is in conflict with what we think they should do.   We need to consider that God may be directing them in a completely different ministry than the one he has chosen for us (2 Timothy 4:11).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Fighting, Running, Faithful

When Paul was in prison earlier, he had written to the saints at Philippi, "I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" and "I trust I will see you shortly" (Philippians 1:12-13,19, 24).  But evidently Paul had been told by the Holy Spirit that this time his death was imminent.  He writes to Timothy, "the time of my departure is at hand" (2 Timothy 2:6).

He looks back over his life as a believer, "I have fought the good fight.  I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).  What did Jesus tell us about living here?  "These things I have told you that you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation: but rejoice, for I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

Yes, some days we are much more aware of the fight. We feel the competition for our loyalties.  Our faith feels weak.    In those seasons, we are wise to cling to God's Word and rely completely on his ability to sustain us.  Then act accordingly. In the end we too will receive a crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:8).

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dangerous Viaducts

When I was a teenager, our group of friends would go out after church for a coke and fries.  During the summer nights, we would often take walks in the fields.  On one or two occasions we walked down a viaduct, water rushing by us on either side.  With no moonlight, I strained to see the path in front of me.  Thankfully none of us fell into the dangerous canals.

Paul tells Timothy, "Be watchful in all things" (2 Timothy 4:5).  The English Standard Version reads, "be sober minded".  Like walking along a dangerous viaduct in the dark, We need to be on guard against false teaching.  All things must be measured against God's Word.

 The Bible is not a conglomerate of individual opinions.  It is a collection of testimonies of God at work in individual lives and set of instructions given by God to us.  Jesus referred to the books in the Old Testament as scripture.  Each of the New Testament books was written by either someone who was directly taught by Jesus or lived and worked with one of Jesus' disciples.  All of the authors of the New Testament books were murdered for what they believed, except for John.

Why wouldn't I measure all things by their writings?  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Fulfill Your Ministry

"Fulfill the work of your ministry" (2 Timothy 3:5).

Whatever responsibility God has given us, we need to work at doing our best.  It takes a commitment of time and energy to minister effectively.  The mind tends toward complacency and we can slowly loose our enthusiasm over ministries.

Are we  praying earnestly over our responsibility?  Are we reading books on the subject of our ministry, be it teaching or cooking?  Have we researched ideas?  Have we taken an online course on the subject, talked with other in the same position?  Do we need a mentor?  Are we studying the word, faithfully developing our relationship with God?

Ministry will not happen without spiritual and physical effort.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Family Evangelist

"Do the work of an Evangelist" (2 Timothy 3:5).  Ephesians tells us God has given to the church prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11).  Though there is a specific gifting and call of God to be an evangelist, we have all been called to speak the message of God faithfully.  The deeper you are in a relationship, the more difficult this can become.  We may be tempted to water down the gospel in order to gain approval or to stop persecution.  But the words of Jesus call me back to the Truth.

"A man's enemies will be the members of his own household.  He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.  He who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  He who does not take up his cross and follow me, is not worthy of me.  He who finds his life shall loose it.  He who looses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 10:36-39).

"When push comes to shove" do we choose to appease our family and compromise the Truth, or do we remain steadfast in the Words of God?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tisk, Tisk

I used to read this next verse with a kind of "tisk, tisk" attitude.  If you are not familiar with that phrasing, it refers to a kind of clicking of the tongue, that expresses a righteous indignation that such a thing exists.  It is an expression of pride that I, or mine are not that way.

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.  And they will turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4)."

But when "those people" are your children or members of your family, the words pierce your heart with grief.  What is more, when you experience their kindness and love,  when you enjoy being with them, when you grapple with things in the Bible that are difficult to understand,  all pride flees your heart and you find yourself begging God to keep you from falling away from your faith in him (Exodus 34:12; Deuteronomy 4:9, 11:16; Romans 14:4; Ephesians 1:4-5; Philippians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Hebrew 12:1-3; Jude 1:24)

Thank God our faith is his gift to us (Ephesians 2:8) and we can place our family into his care (2 Timothy 1:12).  Thank God that he is able to save those we pray for (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Difficult Commission

"I charge you before God and The Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom; preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching" (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

The commission given to pastors is not to please people, but to honestly, with patience, teach the truth which at times includes rebuking and correcting individuals.  Our pastor may be getting involved in our affairs because we are violating God's principles and he is attempting to rescue us.

Pray for your spiritual leader today.  He or she does not have an easy commission.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Some Things Are Not Debatable

Jesus is the author of our faith and he will bring us through life successfully so that we will remain faithful to him (Hebrews 12:2; Jude 1:24; Romans 14:4; Philippians 1:6).  The scriptures give us wisdom that we need to walk in this new life (2 Timothy 3:15).

Our doctrine (truth that we live by) is found there.  In the stories and in the letters we receive reproof and correction.  We learn what behaviors are righteous and which are not through God's instructions.  All that we need to know has been made clear in scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The many things that are unclear or debatable are there for our learning, growth, our contemplation, our enjoyment and to bring God glory on the day that we see him and all things are made clear (1 Corinthians 13:11-12; 1 John 3:2).

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Different Tasks

It is natural for us to wonder what is our purpose in life.  Paul's was to preach Christ where no one had heard of him before.  He was one of the first missionaries (2 Timothy 3:10; Romans 15:20-21).  Yet he writes to the Thessalonians "Make it your aim to live quiet lives, mind your own business, and work with your own hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

We are not to compare our spiritual gifts and ministries to one another with a covetous eye, but fulfill the life to which God has called us. We all follow the same Lord and obey the same Word, but we do not always share the same tasks (Romans 12:1-8).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

His Way or My Way

Paul commends Timothy for following Paul's doctrine and manner of life (2 Timothy 3:10: Hebrews 13:7-8).  One could say that doctrines are the core beliefs of a person that guide their decisions, their thoughts and actions.  The basic belief system dictates the manner of a person's life.

If we believe Jesus is the only way to the Father, who alone can grant eternal fulfillment, we will obey his commands so that we may gain our eternal goal.  If we believe that he loves us as an individual and calls us by name, obedience comes with pleasure because we are persuaded that he has our best interest in mind and has the power to cause the best to happen.

If we do not honestly believe these things, we will eventually willfully walk away from God and what we now know about him.  We will worship, not God, but will worship ourselves.  Our way of thinking becomes the only truth we recognize.

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death" (Proverbs 14:12).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Persecuted Faith

 Timothy loved his spiritual father, Paul.  He followed the news of Paul's imprisonments and persecutions closely (2 Timothy 3:10-11).  Paul affirmed Timothy's conclusion or question, do all Christians suffer persecution?  Yes, it is inevitable because we live on earth where sin corrupts people (John 3:19-20) and where the ruler of this world stirs up evil ( John 13:2; 14:39-31).   But Paul also points to the victories, "...And out of them all, God delivered me" (2 Timothy 3:11).

"Yes, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecutions.  But you must continue in the things you have learned and been assured of" (2 Timothy 3:14). "The Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14).

If you read the Bible on a regular basis, you will experience how God speaks to us at exactly the time we most need it.  It does not seem to matter whether we are reading the Old Testament or the New, the day you need it the most, the Spirit will apply the Word to the wound in your spirit to lift you up to faith.      

Monday, March 3, 2014

A List to Avoid

I find one of the most difficult things for me is to pull away from people who are unhealthy. My tendency is to think I need to help them or that someone needs to reach out to them.  I feel like it is my Christian obligation to love everyone and therefore I must be open to being friends with everyone who wishes to connect with me.  But Paul writes that there are people we are to avoid altogether.  He lists them here in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

Those who love themselves (put themselves above everyone else)
Those who are driven by the love of money
Those who are boasters and proud
Those who are blasphemers
Those who are disobedient to parents,
Those who are unthankful
Those who are unholy, unloving, unforgiving
Those who are slanderers
Those who have no self control
Those who are brutal, disposers of good
Those who are traitors, headstrong and haughty
Those who are lovers of pleasures more than they love God
Those who have a form of God (religious) but deny God's power

Look closely.  Are any of these people in your life draining your faith and exhausting you spiritually?  Perhaps it is not God who has sent them into your path.