Monday, January 31, 2011

Grace Be With You (2 Tim. 4:19-22)

Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left sick at Miletus. Make every effort to come before winter. Eubulus greets you, also Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brethren. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.
(2 Timothy 4:19-22, NASB)

As we wrap up this journey through Paul’s second letter to Timothy, I pray the same for you as he did for his protégé.

I pray the Lord will be with your spirit. No matter your circumstances, never forget that God is with you (Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5; Ps. 27:9; Heb. 13:5). Jesus is helping to bear your burdens (Matt. 11:29-30). He will give you an overwhelming peace (Phil. 4:6-7). The Holy Spirit will work in you to manifest His fruit (Gal. 5:22-23).

I pray God’s grace will shower you. We know salvation comes from grace (Eph. 2:8-9). But God’s grace—His unmerited favor—covers you each and every day. As He blesses you with a roof over your head (whether you own your home or are renting a room in someone else’s), with sustenance, with relationships, remember it’s because He loves you. None of us deserves God’s grace, but He loves us so much He chooses to bless us abundantly (Eph. 3:20-21).

And so I pray along with Paul: Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen (Eph. 5:23-24).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Three Promises (2 Tim. 4:17-19)

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion's mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
(2 Timothy 4:17-19, NASB)

Three promises … Two for today. One for tomorrow.

“The Lord [stands] with me and strengthen[s] me” each and every day. To be honest, this is the promise that keeps me going. If it weren’t for the confidence I have that God is with me every day, right by my side, I don’t know how I’d make it.

If you’ve been a regular follower of these daily devotionals, you know I suffer from several chronic health issues. I’m constantly weary, and my energy level is usually quite low. I desperately need the strength of my heavenly Father to get me through each day. And that’s not an exaggeration. Too many mornings I wake up, and it’s all I can do to get out of bed. And yet, each evening, I crawl back into bed, knowing I accomplished much through God-given strength.

“The Lord rescue[s] me from every evil deed.” We’ve talked a lot about battles, and I find great comfort in knowing the Lord “has my back.” No matter what the enemy throws at me, God will rescue me. He’ll protect me as I continue this earthly journey.

And the promise for tomorrow?

One day, He “will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom.” One day, all my weariness and pain will end. One day, I will no longer have to battle against the enemy of my soul. One day, I’ll be in the very presence of my God—Father, Son, and Spirit.

How blessed I am to know that God never leaves me nor forsakes me here on earth (Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5; Ps. 27:9; Heb. 13:5). And how even more blessed I am that one day I’ll shed this earthly skin and spend eternity with the Lord.

What great promises! And so I can say, along with Paul, "to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Don't Hold It Against Others (2 Tim. 4:9-16)

Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service. But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching. At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them.
(2 Timothy 4:9-16, NASB)

We were created for relationship. We need other people in our lives.

But sometimes those “others” let us down. Sometimes they harm us. Sometimes they desert us. Sometimes they oppose us.

What do we do then? In just a few words, Paul answered that question: “may it not be counted against them.”

I interpret these words as “Pray for them.” He didn’t want them to be harmed in return. He didn’t want revenge. Rather, he “hope[ed] it [wouldn’t] be held against them” (CEV). And how would it not be “held against them”? Well, as far as I know, the only way something we don’t hold something against another person is if we forgive them. But often we can’t do that easily on our own. We need help.

And so, I believe Paul prayed for those who harmed him. I believe he chose to forgive them and, even more, he prayed for their redemption.

It reminds me of stories you read about a murder victim’s parent going to visit the killer and offering him forgiveness. And being able to do this is only possible by prayerfully seeking God’s help.

Is there anyone who has harmed you? Have you been deserted? It may be the hardest thing for you to do, but forgive them. Then pray for them. Don’t hold anything against them.

And let God do His work in them.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Depart Well (2 Tim. 4:6-8)

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.
(2 Timothy 4:6-8, NASB)

One day, unless Jesus returns first, we will all face our “time of departure.” And I don’t know about you, but I so want to be able to sincerely say as Paul did:

I have fought the good fight. We are in a battle, folks. A rough, sometimes bloody battle. Every morning, we need to get up and put on our armor in preparation to combat whatever the enemy throws our way (Eph. 6:10-14).

I have finished the course. Paul liked to use athletic metaphors, and although I’m far from being an athlete, I understand wanting to “finish the course.” You don’t start a race if you don’t intend to finish. And what does it take to finish? Training. Perseverance. Focus. And that’s exactly how we should live our lives as Christ-followers. Training by studying God’s word. Persevering through trials. Keeping focus on the Lord and His will.

I have kept the faith. Faith isn’t always easy. Believing in what we can’t touch or see or hear seems contrary to logic. But that’s what being a Christian is all about. We believe in God—Father, Son, and Spirit—because we see His work in creation. We feel His presence as He works in and through us. We hear how He works in the lives of others.

Don’t you want to one day stand before your Lord God and receive your own crown of righteousness? You will if you submit your life to the righteous Judge and seek to do His will. Fight the fight. Finish the course. Keep the faith.

And receive your crown.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Don't Be a Christian in Name Only (2 Tim. 4:1-5)

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(2 Timothy 4:1-5, NASB)

Have I mentioned lately how much I love God’s word? And how much I love Paul’s letters? Sometimes, though, I read passages, and I’m almost overwhelmed with how much God speaks to my heart. This is one of those times.

I want to focus on two areas Paul writes about.

We must be ready to preach God’s word, patiently and lovingly
. No, not all of us are gifted as teachers or preachers or evangelists. However, we all have opportunities to share God’s word. And so we need to know it. I’ve emphasized Bible study—real get-into-the-meat-of-it study—a lot lately, and it’s so very critical. How can you share with others something about which you don’t really know yourself? I challenge you: If you’re not already spending quality time in God’s word, start today. Be ready.

People in our world today aren’t willing to “endure sound doctrine.” This is the biggest tragedy I see in Christendom today. In order to justify choices or sometimes blatant sin, they seek teachers who will “tickle” their ears. In other words, who will tell them what they want to hear. They’re not seeking the real truth of the Bible—in fact, they even say the Bible isn’t really the inspired, inerrant word of God.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: If you call yourself a Christian, then be one. Read and study and know God’s word. Know what delights Him—and what breaks His heart. Believe Jesus when He said that He, and He alone, is the “way, truth, and life” and that no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). Believe that those who choose to follow Him and commit their lives to Him will spend eternity with Him (John 3:16).

And those who don’t will spend eternity separated from Him. Remember, not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter God’s kingdom (Matt. 7:21-23).

Please. If you’re reading this, and you’ve allowed false teachers to tickle your ears, go to the source of truth. Read the book of John. And then read it again. See what the Lord Jesus Himself says about knowing and following Him.

And then commit to doing so. Submit your life completely to your loving Father. Trust me. It will be so very worth it … because being in a true relationship with Creator God is better than anything this world can offer. Anything.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

God's Amazing Word (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:16-17, NASB)

God was under no obligation to leave a written message for us. He could have created us, and then just let us figure things out on our own. But He loves us too much for that. He wanted to leave a means to communicate with us.

The Bible is a seamless document covering centuries, written by the inspired pens of disparate men, with a single message: God is gracious and loving, and it is His desire that everyone be in relationship with Him.

As we read His word, as we study it, we learn about the history of the people of Israel and other nations. We are inspired by songs and poems and letters. We are convicted to be loving and kind and joyful, and we’re reproved when we’re angry or envious or jealous.

And why did God give us this amazing book? So that we who follow Him will be “equipped for every good work.” Just as a soldier needs to be equipped with his weapon, we need the Bible—the sword of the Spirit—to be equipped to face each day’s battles and to do the work God has called us to do.

Don’t take this gift for granted. Don’t let it gather dust on a shelf. In humble gratitude, take it out every day. Read it. Study it. Meditate on it.

And thank God for loving you so much that He provided it for you.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Importance of Bible Study (2 Tim. 3:14-15)

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
(2 Timothy 3:14-15, NASB)

Maybe you’ve “from childhood known the sacred writings.” Or maybe you’ve recently become a Christian and are just learning God’s word.

In either case, if you want to receive God’s wisdom, you must “continue in the things you have learned.” Just as you gain knowledge of any subject by study and repetition, so you also gain knowledge of God and His will through study of His word.

I can’t stress how important daily study is to growing in faith. And I don’t mean just reading a chapter here and there (although any Bible reading is better than nothing). I mean real study.

I learned the importance of real study myself. When I rededicated my life to the Lord over 17 years ago, I started sporadically reading the Bible. A verse or two every few days. And I found myself reverting to old habits. I realized, if I wanted to know God more, I needed to do more.

And so I started what’s called “inductive Bible study.” It’s a process by which you spend a lot of time in a specific book of the Bible. Chapter by chapter. Verse by verse. You immerse yourself in the truth of God’s word. And as you do, it becomes more real to you, as does God Himself. I’ve spent weeks—even months—in a particular book. Investigating. Praying. Meditating. Reading trusted commentaries. Memorizing verses.

I’ll tell you something: If it wasn’t for this time of daily study, while I would still be a Christian because I believe in the God of the Bible and that salvation comes through Christ’s blood, I wouldn’t be so in love with Him. I wouldn’t want to serve Him as I do. I wouldn’t want His will above all things.

That’s how important real study of God’s word. If you want a vibrant, strong, growing faith, study God’s word. Spend time in it. Learn from it. Gain knowledge from it.

It’s that important.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beware the Imposters (2 Tim. 3:13)

But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
(2 Timothy 3:13, NASB)

Lately, I’ve been writing of how Paul’s prophetic words are coming to fulfillment in our generation. And today’s verse continues the theme. I think about the hundreds of religions and sects throughout our world, and the “imposters” who are deceiving others, but are also deceiving themselves.

I recently read about a book written by a church leader from a mainstream denomination. In it, he apparently asserts that God really won’t sent unbelievers to hell. He also slams all evangelical Christians for being judgmental and obnoxious. Now, I won’t deny that there are many Christians who are unfortunately both—very much so. However, many of us truly love all people, and realize we can’t point out splinters when we’re looking passed our planks.

But it is true that many church leaders want to soft-soap biblical truth. How often do you hear about how sin separates us from God? Not nearly as often as we should. Instead, we hear about a loving God who is just going to let us do what we want. And as long as we’re relatively good, He’ll welcome us into heaven.

That’s not what the Bible says. The only way to join our Lord God in heaven is through the acceptance of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial payment for our sin. We’re then to surrender our lives daily to God’s will. We’re to lay down our own desires and seek only His.

That’s truth. But that’s not what the impostors are saying, and it's our responsibility to tell truth from lies. So listen well.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

God's More-than-sufficient Grace (2. Tim. 3:10-12)

Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
(2 Timothy 3:10-12, NASB)

One of the greatest tragedies is when a person of faith experiences suffering or pain, and then turns his back on that faith. Somehow, he expected a joyful and peaceful life, and when things don’t happen according to his plan, he rejects God.

People like this clearly didn’t read the Bible. While we’re certainly promised a “peace that surpasses understanding” (Phil 4:5) and joy, we’re also promised suffering. In fact, a great verse that talks about joy connects it directly with trials and tribulations (James 1:2).

Paul certainly experienced pain and suffering and persecution much worse than most of us will. Beaten. Shipwrecked. Imprisoned. Hunger. Thirst. (See 2 Cor. 11:23-27.) Yet, he rejoiced in his sufferings. In 2 Corinthians 12, he wrote of a “thorn,” something that weakened him. It may have been a chronic illness, according to some scholars, but it was something that caused weakness. Even through whatever pain he experienced, he “took pleasure” (NKJV) or was “well content” (NASB) because he knew God was using that “thorn” to show His strength (vv. 7-10).

And if he hadn’t made it clear enough, he wrote to Timothy that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (emphasis mine).

But we’re not alone in our suffering. The Lord will rescue us. He will walk alongside us and carry us when we can’t even crawl. Christ’s power dwells in us, just it did in Paul.

What are you experiencing today that’s shaken your faith? Chronic health issues? Loss of a loved one? Financial difficulties?

Don’t let your sufferings turn you away from the One stronger than any trial or persecution. No. Turn to Him. His “grace is sufficient.” In fact, it’s more than sufficient to get you through.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Christ's Light in the Dark (2 Tim. 3:6-9)

For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes's and Jambres's folly was also.
(2 Timothy 3:6-9, NASB)

Yesterday we talked about how dark this world is, yet we know throughout history, darkness has often prevailed. Paul reminded Timothy of two men who had opposed Moses centuries before Paul himself wrote these very words. And now centuries after Paul, we still have countless who “oppose the truth.”

We live in a “spiritual” society, but what does that really mean? I freelance for, an on-line news publication, in the “Religion & Spirituality” category. And guess what some of the sub-sections are?

Astrology & Paranormal. Eastern Religions. Secular. Oh, and yes, Western Religion.

Under the same category, you’ll find articles about atheism, Buddhism, and evangelical Christianity all at the same time.

People are learning and seeking … something. And this world has answers that are far from a “knowledge of the truth.” And, as I’ve written before, even so-called Christians are skewing the truth. We don’t have to take the Bible as God’s inspired word, they say. Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven. God won’t really punish people by sending them to hell … in fact, hell probably doesn’t even exist.

Yet again, this isn’t new to our generation. In the early church, factions broke from true Christianity almost immediately.

So what can we do? We who know truth need to share the truth. We who follow the one true God must be Christ’s light to this very dark world. We need to offer the only solution to an eternity separated from God.

And we must do it as Christ did: gently and lovingly and non-judgmentally.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Our Dark World (2 Tim. 3:1-5)

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; avoid such men as these.
(2 Timothy 3:1-5, NASB)

I don’t know if Paul thought of himself as a prophet. Rather, I’m sure he would have described himself as an evangelist. But when I read verses like this, it’s clear God gave him insight to the future. Because these verses perfectly describe this world today.

Think about it. When we watch the news, what do we hear? It’s all about me. My rights. My needs. And because it’s all about me, I can do whatever I want. I can be arrogant and ungrateful. I can disobey my parents and run amok, taking as many risks as I like.

I can talk about others, being as malicious and brutal as I want. Because it’s not about you; it’s about me.

We live in a world in which money is king and God, if He does exist, is far out there somewhere, not concerned with what I do. I can seek all kinds of pleasure, whenever, wherever.

Doesn’t this all sound so familiar? Being Christ-like and striving to be holy is so contrary to our world. Yet, we Christ-followers are called to shine Christ’s light into the surrounding darkness.

But even in the darkness, we can have great hope. As this world gets darker and darker, we can be confident of this: We are in the end times. We are getting closer to Christ’s return.

And one day, sooner than later, darkness will be no more. Love will win out. God will reign. Fully and completely.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Bond-servant's Behavior (1 Tim. 2:23-26)

But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
(2 Timothy 2:23-26, NASB)

Sometimes I read the Bible about how I as a follower of Christ am supposed to behave, and I think, “There’s no way …”

Today’s verses are no exception.

I’m to not be quarrelsome. I’m to be kind to all. I’m to be able to teach (oh … that’s not so bad!). I’m to be patient when wronged. I’m to gently correct those who are in opposition.

Really? Nothing like feeling totally inadequate.

And I am inadequate—on my own, that is. Praise God, I’m not alone in this journey. The Holy Spirit is in me to help me be all God the Father has created me to be. When I feel quarrelsome, I can ask for a heart of peace. When I feel unkind, I can ask for compassion. When I want revenge, I can ask for the ability to forgive.

So why do I want to be kind and patient with others anyway? So that, by Christ’s example shining through me, others may want the same peace and compassion I feel. They may want to know about my Savior. They may seek repentance.

And by my Christ-like behavior, they may “come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil.”

And if that’s the end result? Striving to be kind and patient and compassionate—even when it totally goes against my fleshly nature—is totally worth it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pursue Godly Things (2 Tim. 2:22)

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
(2 Timothy 2:22, NASB)

When we’re young, we think we’re invincible. We can do anything, try anything, and experience no consequences. And the more we do or the more we have, the more we want.

As we grow older and more mature, we realize how wrong we were. We’re not invincible. And every decision—good or bad—has its consequence. Those lusts—sex or alcohol or drugs—we pursued as teens or young adults don’t fulfill us as they did.

There’s a reason for that. They never did fulfill. Only a relationship with the Lord can meet all our needs. And when we pursue godly things—such as righteousness, faith, love, and peace—only then will we be content. We’ll be fully satisfied with what God has given us, never needing or wanting more.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An Honored Vessel (2 Tim. 2:20-21)

Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
(2 Timothy 2:20-21, NASB)

Vessels of honor … and vessels of dishonor.

We are all vessels, created by God. He designed each of us to serve and glorify Him. Some of us choose to do as He created and do “every good work.” We are vessels of honor, delighting our Master.

Others choose to do their own thing, live their own lives. And these are vessels of dishonor in the Master’s eyes.

I’ve been both. If you’ve followed this devotional for a while, you may have read that I spent twenty years on a quite meandering journey away from God. I made poor choices. I followed the world and allowed myself to be sucked in by its temporary pleasures. I was a dirty, useless vessel.

Then over 17 years ago, I recommitted my life to God, and He cleansed that old vessel and began to use it. Over the years, I’ve sometimes allowed a little dirt to land, but I go immediately to the Lord, and He cleanses me again (1 John 1:9).

Our Lord God wants to use us. He invites us to participate in His kingdom-building plan and serve Him gladly. But He wants clean vessels. Ones He can honor and use with joy.

Are you a cleansed, honored vessel? If not, you can be. Just accept Jesus’ gift of cleansing salvation. Delight your Father, and be a part of His plan.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Encouragement and Conviction (2 Tim. 2:19)

Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness."
(2 Timothy 2:19, NASB)

Encouragement and conviction in one short verse.

I’m encouraged by the reminder that God “knows those who are His.” He knew me before I was born. He intricately designed me. He knows even the numbers of hairs on my head. There is no where I can go where He is not with me and watching over me. (See Psalm 139; Matt. 10:28-32; Luke 12:5-8.)

I am blessed beyond measure to know such a loving, gracious God!

I’m convicted when I ask myself if I always “abstain from wickedness.” I want so badly to be Christ-like. I want to please my Father in all ways and at all times. I want to avoid those “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). I don’t want to be prideful, and I want to say and think only good things (Phil. 4:8).

Oh, I want these things, but how often do I fail … and yet, I am blessed beyond measure to know such a loving, gracious God!!

Not only does He intimately know me, but He also loves me enough to want to change me, to refine me. The Holy Spirit works in me to keep my heart and mind on things that please God. I am showered with God’s grace and mercy.

Even when I do fail, I know I can go to my Father and confess my sin. And His love and grace forgets that sin “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12).

Hmmm … How wonderful! Even the conviction encourages!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Avoid Worldly and Empty Chatter (2 Tim. 2:16-18)

But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. (2 Timothy 2:16-18, NASB)

I’ve been reading a book called The Story of Christianity, Volume 1, The Early Church to the Reformation, by Justo L. Gonzalez, and I was astounded to see how how profusely false teachers and doctrines appeared in the early church. I’m only up to the fifth century AD, and already there are so many accounts of sects and factions.

Clearly this was already happening in Paul’s time, not long after Jesus’ resurrection. So why should we be surprised that the church (and I mean the church as a whole) is full of “worldly and empty chatter”? Pastors are preaching skewed messages of prosperity for all or works getting us to heaven. They say from pulpits that Jesus isn’t the only way.

And these messages too are “spread[ing] like gangrene." What a vivid illustration that is! When infection sets into a wound, and it goes untreated, gangrene insidiously takes over. And if it continues to go untreated, often the tissue of the infected arm or the leg dies, and the limb has to be removed.

I’ve written many, many times, the only way to know God’s truth is to read His word. Bankers know counterfeit bills not by studying them; rather, they know counterfeit by studying the real thing. That too is how we know counterfeit doctrine: by studying the real thing.

Let’s speak truth, and never allow false doctrine to enter our message.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Unashamedly and Accurately Handle God's Word (2 Tim. 2:14-15)

Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
(2 Timothy 2:14-15, NASB)

One of our responsibilities as children of God is to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we are to remind each other about God’s faithfulness, speaking truth from His word. We’re not to “wrangle about words,” or as another version says, “argue about words” (CEV).

We can be very opinionated, and many of us are fiercely loyal to our particular translation of the Bible. And that’s okay. I grew up with the New American Standard version of the Bible, and it still tends to be my favorite.

However, we have to be careful not to be so attached to our translation that we “wrangle” with others about how our version is the only one. When we get into arguments about wording, we’re not being examples of Christian unity.

Instead, we should remember that God is bigger than any of our Bible translations. If He inspired the original authors, why wouldn’t He work through the pens of translators and paraphrasers? (As an aside, I do believe that some versions have been watered down or aren’t as accurate translations of the original language, but not being a scholar, I can’t intelligently enter that debate.)

And our real responsibility is to know and study God’s word ourselves—even researching and reading several other translations—and then to be prepared to share that truth with others. We need to both unashamedly and accurately handle the Bible.

Only then will we be the workers God has designed us to be.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Promises ... and a Caution (2 Tim. 2:11-13)

It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

(2 Timothy 2:11-13, NASB)

Take a moment to read these verses again. And again. We’re promised so much.

“For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him.” When we accept the gift of Jesus Chris’s sacrificial payment for our sin and commit our lives to Him, we die to ourselves, to our flesh. Our desires become His desires. And we truly live—for the first time. Living in Christ means we’re never alone (Heb. 13:5). We have peace (Phil. 4:7). We have a burden-carrier (Matt. 11:28-30).

“If we endure, we will also reign with Him.” We know we’ll face tribulations and trials on this earth. We know we’ll be persecuted for following Christ (Mark 13:13; 1 Cor. 4:11-13)). But if we persevere, we’re fulfilling God’s will for our lives. We’ll spend eternity with our Lord. We’ll “receive the crown of life” (James1:12).

But in the midst of these promises is a serious caution: “If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” We all have a choice to follow Christ. God has made salvation available to anyone and everyone who accepts it. But we know some will deny the truth. And when they do, God honors their choice.

Yet, even if “we are faithless, He remains faithful.” This may seem contrary to the above phrase, but it’s not. If someone faithlessly chooses to deny Christ, He faithfully honors their decision. This extends to those of us who have chosen to follow Him, yet rebel or turn our backs. He will always be faithful and loving and gracious. But make no mistake: He is also righteous and just. And because He is, He will faithfully allow us to make our own decisions. And He will justly discipline us if those decisions are poor.

Jesus promises that you will live with Him and reign with Him if you choose to follow Him. If you don’t, He’ll be faithful and honor your decision to deny Him. And you’ll spend eternity separated from Him.

What choice have you made?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"...the Word of God Is Not Imprisoned" (2 Tim. 2:8-10)

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.
(2 Timothy 2:8-10, NASB)

“ … the word of God is not imprisoned.” I love these words!

No matter what happens to us, no matter how we’re ridiculed or persecuted or rejected, God’s word can still be proclaimed. The gospel can still be shared.

This reminds me so much of the story of Corrie Ten Boom, one of my greatest mentors. If you don’t know her story, visit The condensed version is that she and her sister were incarcerated in a concentration camp during WWII, and while in that—excuse my expression—hellhole, they held Bible studies. And many women came to faith. Even after her sister died, Corrie continued to help others “obtain the salvation which is in Jesus Christ.”

Many of us are in our own “prisons.” We may be suffering from health issues that keep us down. We may be trapped in relationships that are hurtful. We may be heartbroken by rejection or rebellion.

And some of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are in literal prisons or are threatened daily as they fulfill God’s mission.

Yet even if we’re behind bars—either literal or figurative—we can still share God’s truth. We can still get the word out.

Because “ … the word of God is not imprisoned.”

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Grow Your Relationship ... with God (2 Tim. 2:7)

Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
(2 Timothy 2:7, NASB)

If we seek God, if we focus on Him, if we meditate on His word, if we spend time in prayer and solitude, He will reveal Himself and His will to us.

We will understand His word more. We will see His plan more clearly. We will know how to serve Him so He’ll be glorified.

That’s what being in a relationship is all about. Learning more and more about the other. Being more in tune to his desires. Wanting to bring him joy. The most healthy relationships I know are like this. And that’s how our relationship with God should be.

Do you truly desire a growing relationship with your Lord God? Do you want to know Him more, have “understanding in everything”? Then focus on what you can do. Do your part.

God has already done His.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fruit for Our Labor (2 Tim. 2:6)

The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.
(2 Timothy 2:6, NASB)

I get the idea of being a soldier and serving my “superior Officer.” I even understand being an athlete and having to play by the rules. But I have to say, I was a bit stumped by the “hard-working farmer … [being] the first to receive his share of the crops.”

I mean, we’re not supposed to be thinking of rewards or what we can get when we serve the Lord, right?

So I took a look at one of my favorite commentaries, Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. And it began to make sense: “If we would partake the fruits, we must labour … We must do the will of God, before we receive the promises, for which reason we have need of patience.”

When we serve God with willing hearts, we will see fruit for our labor. When we use the gifts He’s given us, we’ll see results.

I had an example of this just last night. When I speak or sing or write, I’m sometimes privileged to be told that God has encouraged someone through me. I see fruit for my labor. But last night, I was in the audience listening to another gifted speaker. Afterward, she came to me to thank me for listening with love. She was encouraged because I listened intently and supported her with my smile and body language. I saw fruit from my “labor” using my gift of encouragement.

God will use our gifts when we labor for Him. And we’ll be blessed to see fruit—firsthand.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Following the Rules (2 Tim. 2:5)

Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.
(2 Timothy 2:5, NASB)

Yesterday, we looked at Paul’s comparing our Christian walk to that of a soldier. Today’s verse likens us to athletes.

Let me start by saying I’m not an athlete. Not at all. Didn’t do sports in high school. Only exercise now because I’m not getting any younger, and I need to do what I can to keep this old body in working order.

However, I do understand one thing about athletics: In order to win, you must play by the rules. Players and sometimes entire teams are disqualified because they cheated. They used steroids to enhance performance. They stole the playbook.

Most sports have certain “fouls” that can cost points or give the other team an edge.

Yes. In order to win, we must play by the rules.

So if we’re athletes for Christ, if we’re seeking to “win the prize,” what rules are we to follow? And what is the prize anyway?

The rules are found in God’s word. And the two most important rules were given by our Lord Jesus Himself. We’re to love the Lord—heart, soul, mind, and strength—and we’re to love others as we do ourselves (Mark 12:29-21).

If we follow these rules, the rest fall into place. If we love God, we’re going to want to serve Him. We’re going to want to do His will. We’re going to want to please Him with our actions, our words, and our thoughts.

And if we love others, we’re going to treat them with kindness and gentleness. We’re going to show mercy. We’re not going to gossip or lie or steal. We’re not going to cheat or put down.

If we follow the rules, we’ll one day receive the prize: eternity with our Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing that prize awaits us makes following the rules, while not easy, certainly worth it.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Prepare for the Battle (2 Tim. 2:3-4)

Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.
(2 Timothy 2:3-4, NASB)

We are in a battle, folks. Ephesians 6:12 says it well:
We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world (CEV).
Every day we need to put on the full armor of God as Paul described in verses 10-17 of that same chapter.

Then in today’s verses, Paul reminded Timothy of two things a soldier—someone in battle—must be aware of: He suffers, and his focus must be on the battle.

We’re God’s soldiers, and we too must be aware of the same things.

We will suffer. We are not promised smooth and easy lives. Not at all. Think of a soldier in combat. You may not be in the military, nor may you personally know someone who is, but you’ve seen footage of men and women on the frontlines. Their daily lives can be difficult. Tough environments. The constant threat of attack. Being away from loved ones. Even watching fellow soldiers wounded—or die.

So how do those in active combat survive their hardships? They remain “untangled” of the “affairs of everyday life.” They recognize their commitment to their superiors and to the reason for the battle. They put aside other concerns and remain focused on the battle itself.

As we face our own battles, we must also focus on combating the enemy. We can’t let the daily concerns of life steal our focus from gearing up for battle, which we do by spending time in God’s word and in quiet communion with our “superior officer.”

Today—and every day—you’re heading out into battle. Are you prepared? Are you ready for suffering? And are you focused on winning the battle alongside your Sovereign God?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Teach Others (2 Tim. 2:1-2)

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
(2 Timothy 2:1-2, NASB)

We learn so that we can teach and encourage others. God inspired the pens of men to leave us a rich and wonderful book of lessons and stories and examples of godly men and women. As we read the Bible, we learn more of who God is and what He expects of us.

We learn of His grace and mercy and love. We learn of His righteousness and justice. We learn of His plan of salvation.

And as we learn, we internalize and become more like Christ.

Then we can share God’s truths with others. We can help them know God and His plan for their lives. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to tell people that God loves with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3); that He is their Shepherd and Protector (Ps. 23); that He will never leave them or forsake them (Heb. 13:5); that He never changes (Heb. 13:8); that He is greater than any enemy or threat (1 John 4:4).

The Bible and its truths will change lives. If it’s changed yours, then teach it to others. It’ll change their lives as well.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Turning Away vs. Supporting (2 Tim. 1:15-18)

You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me—the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day—and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.
(2 Timothy 1:15-18, NASB)

These verses contain a contrast that I believe still exists today. In verse 15, Paul wrote of those who “turned away from” him. Then verses 16-18 commend someone who stood beside him.

I know of people in ministry who experience the same. On one hand, they’re surrounded by brothers and sisters who pray for them and sometimes even support them financially. Then on the other hand, naysayers and even antagonists belittle or malign them. Even worse, some who supported them in the past “turn away from” them.

Even Jesus had His supporters and those who walked away. During His ministry, some who initially followed Him didn’t stay. And when He was arrested, all of His inner circle—His disciples—ran away (Matt. 26:56; Mark 15:50). Yet it seems that at least two of His disciples did at least attempt to be near Him (John 18:25), and some of the women who had followed Jesus remained as close to His side as possible as He walked His final steps and then hung on the cross (Matt. 27:55-56).

So why should we be surprised when people turn from us? It’ll happen. The best thing to do is focus on those who remain. Be grateful for those who minister with us and support us. And make certain we support others in return.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

My More-Than-Able God (2 Tim. 1:12-14)

For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.
(2 Timothy 1:12-14, NASB)

Growing up in a Baptist church, I sang a lot of old hymns. And I remember the words of one of my favorites. As I sang this song as a child, I had no idea the words came from 2 Timothy:
I know whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him until that day.
(Whittle, McGranahan, 1883)
I love the words of that old Scripture-inspired hymn because it reminds me that the God I’ve put my trust in is able. Able to keep me strong. Able to provide. Able to give comfort. Able to shower with peace. Able to help me overcome any situation.

He is greater than anything or anyone. And until the day I leave this earth, either through death or at Christ’s return, He will faithfully hold me safely and securely in His more-than-able right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Three Promises (2 Tim. 1:8-11)

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.
(2 Timothy 1:8-11, NASB)

I’m not sure where to begin. These four verses contain so much to encourage! But I want to focus on three great promises.

We have been saved. If you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and have committed your life to Him, you are saved. The old fleshly self has died, and you are being transformed into the new creature God has designed you to be. There is nothing you can do on your own to be saved. It is truly a gift from God.

We have been called with a holy calling. Each of us has been called to serve God uniquely. He has blessed us with gifts that we can use to serve Him and others. Paul was a “preacher and an apostle and a teacher.” Others of us are encouragers or are merciful or are hospitable. It doesn’t matter what your gift is as long as you use it to bring glory to our God

We will live eternally with God—Father, Son, and Spirit. Oh, this is the greatest promise of all! If you’ve given your life to Christ, you will never really die. The flesh you live in now will certainly die and decay, but your soul, in its glorified body, will live forever in the presence of the Sovereign Lord God.

I pray you’ve accepted the gift of salvation. I pray you’re using the gifts God has blessed you with. And I pray you’re anticipating eternity with God with joy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Spirit of Power (2 Tim. 1:7)

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:7, NASB)

I know I have strength and power through God. I know the Holy Spirit helps me to be disciplined. And Jesus is love.

So if I have power and love and discipline, why am I still timid? Timidity does not come from the Spirit. Where does it come from?

The enemy of our souls. Be assured: Satan is not divine. He isn’t all-powerful, nor can he be everywhere at once. He is not—by any stretch—God. But he has been given a measure of power. And he does have a contingent of demons ready to do his bidding. And somehow, he does have the ability to whisper lies in our ears.

And one of his biggest lies? We don’t have what it takes to share God’s word. We aren’t smart enough or educated enough or godly enough. We’re too sinful ourselves to have the right to share the gospel.

I know I buy into that lie so very often. I tell myself I don’t have the gift of evangelism. Someone else will spread the gospel. I’ll just do my small part by encouraging and equipping those who already know Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong: We all have gifts, and some of us are gifted to preach or teach or evangelize. Those are their primary gifts. And some of us are gifted encouragers or administrators.

However, just because my primary gift isn’t evangelism doesn’t mean I’m not to seize every opportunity to share God’s amazing truth. And being fearful isn’t an excuse … because timidity isn’t from God.

If you too suffer from timidity, join me in prayer as I ask for boldness in sharing the good news of God’s plan of salvation.

And together, let’s cast out timidity and seek boldness.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Lasting Legacy (2 Tim. 1:5-6)

For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
(2 Timothy 1:5-6, NASB)

Timothy was blessed with a wonderful legacy of faith. His mother and his grandmother were women of sincere faith, and they clearly instilled that faith in Timothy.

I have been very blessed with the same legacy. Both of my grandmothers were strong women of faith. These women loved Jesus—heart, soul, mind, and strength. They studied God’s word and prayed regularly for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And their prayers were felt, especially by me. I have no doubt their prayers helped to bring this prodigal back to the arms of the Father.

My mom is also such a woman. Her life has been far from perfect, but she remains one of the strongest women of faith I know. She’s shown an unconditional love to her children, and I know she prays for us regularly. She prays for our health, for our protection, for our spiritual journeys.

And I pray I’m providing the same legacy for my “children.” My nieces and nephews. Other “children of my heart.” I pray God will use me to help future generations to know Him and to become men and women of faith.

I couldn’t ask to leave a better legacy.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Another Love Letter (2 Tim. 1:1-4)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day, longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy.
(2 Timothy 1:1-4, NASB)

I’m sure I wrote something similar when I began meditating on Paul’s first letter to Timothy, but I’m writing again: I really love that love is such an integral part of everything Paul wrote. Every letter he wrote was a love letter.

In this letter, he assured his protégé Timothy of his constant and unfailing love. He called Timothy his “beloved son.” He prayed for God’s grace, mercy, and peace to flow over Timothy.

More importantly? He wrote how he constantly prayed for Timothy. And I believe that. I believe that Paul was so in tune with God that he really did “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). And as he prayed, he prayed for those he loved.

I know I don’t do the same. Oh, I do pray regularly for those I love. Pretty much every day, in fact. But without ceasing? Constantly?


The best thing I can do for those I love is to remember them in prayer. Interceding for their needs, their protection, their peace. And if I don’t, then I’m not showing love as I should.

As I begin this new year, I want to demonstrate my love by remembering them in prayer. If not constantly, then as often as I can throughout each day. And maybe, one day, constantly.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!!

It’s a New Year!


Unbelievable! It honestly seems like we were just freaking out about Y2K. And now, ten years have passed.

As we start yet another year, I want to spend a moment saying thank you to my few, but faithful, readers. It does my heart good to know the Lord has touched you through the words He’s written through my “pen.”

Whether you’re reading this on Facebook or the blog itself, I pray you’ll continue to join me on whatever journey the Lord has prepared for me. Because each time I write, I’m writing for me—and you.

May 2011 be a year of blessings for you and your family and friends. May you know—no matter what circumstances come your way—that the Lord God loves you with an everlasting love. May you feel His never-leaving presence.

Be blessed, my friends.