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2 Timothy 4-Titus 1: I Need the Support of God and Men

One of my all time favorite stories is of a little boy who cried out in the middle of a stormy night. His mother came to check on him and he pleaded with her to stay in the bed with him for comfort. 

“Oh, honey, you know I need to sleep with Daddy.”

“But, Mommy, I’m scared.”

“There’s no need to be scared, sweetheart. You know that God is here with you.”

“Yeah, I know, but sometimes I need someone with skin on.”

 

That describes me. I know God is with me, but I also need someone with skin on. Sometimes I feel a bit unspiritual for saying that. But today I read II Timothy 4:9-18. In the past, I simply noticed Paul’s great faith in God. Even though everyone abandoned him, God was still with him and God would deliver him. Clearly, Paul had a great faith in God.

However, in this reading I noticed something else. Even with this great faith in the presence and deliverance from God, Paul was asking Timothy to hurry up and come to him and bring John Mark because all these people had been abandoning him. 

Do you see it? Paul had great faith in God. He was able to endure his imprisonment alone because he knew God was with him. But he also needed someone with skin on. He needed the encouragement that came from like-minded people who could edify and uplift him. In fact, I think we see that relying on God means relying on His people.

The take away for me is keep praying, keep relying on God. At the same time, keep bringing brethren around me who will also encourage and strengthen. It’s okay to need and want someone with skin on.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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November 20, 2008 Posted by | Comfort, Encouragement, Friends, II Timothy, Relationships, relying on God | , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Timothy 6-2 Timothy 1: Timothy’s Fears Comfort Me

Ancient Rendering of Paul and Timothy

Ancient Rendering of Paul and Timothy

 

 

II Timothy 1 is actually a great comfort to me. 

Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. However, in this chapter it appears to me that Timothy has been having some struggles. He has been dealing with some fears regarding doing his work as an evangelist. Paul is lifting him up and encouraging him to stay on track.

Paul lets Timothy know about how much he has prayed for Timothy. He reminds him of his legacy of faith. More than that, instead of shaming Timothy for any seeking lack of faith, Paul affirms he knows the faith really is there. Timothy just needs to rely on it. He reminds Timothy of the miraculous gift of the Spirit he has through the laying on of Paul’s hands. That is, Timothy is not alone but the Spirit is working through him therefore he does not have a spirit of fear but a Spirit of power, love and self-control. He reminds Timothy that there is no need to be ashamed of the suffering of the Lord or of Paul. This suffering is no reason to think Timothy has ended up on the wrong side. Rather, he is on the winning side and needs to join in the suffering because despite all the suffering, Jesus Christ can be trusted with what Timothy and Paul committed to Him, that is, their souls.

This gets into II Timothy 2, but Paul reminds Timothy of the grace that is in Jesus.

Of course, all this information is really good. However, what comforts me the most is knowing I’m not alone. Even a great evangelist like Timothy had times of struggle. He had times when he needed to be provoked to love and good deeds by the likes of Paul. How easy it is for me to hit moments of despair because I don’t have a 24/7/365 powerful motivation to do what is right and do my work. Sometimes I have fears and struggles with preaching the truth, talking to others about the gospel and just generally doing the work of the Lord.

Don’t misunderstand, this chapter doesn’t give me permission to wallow in that. Rather, it simply lets me know that I’m not a loser because I have struggles. Rather, I’m like every other person who works in God’s kingdom. We all need encouragement at times. We all need to be stimulated, stirred up, spurred on and provoked. I may have struggles, but those struggles don’t mean I’m lost. They just mean I’m still living on earth. 

Therefore, this passage has a twofold help for me. First, I see that Timothy went through what I go through and I don’t have to feel alone. Second, I can also read Paul’s encouragement and be provoked to love and good deeds myself.

Hope this encourages you as well.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 18, 2008 Posted by | Comfort, Encouragement, Evangelism, II Timothy, perseverance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebrews 13-James 1: Facing Trials with Joy and not Fear

fearI guess James 1:2-4 stands out to me right now because of our nation’s perilous perch on financial failure. We haven’t heard as much over the past few weeks since the bailout, but that was no more than a band-aid. A government bailout cannot fix America’s financial follies. It can only prolong the inevitable if business practices steeped in debt do not change. The great fear is another depression. What an amazing trial that would be. 

What if it does happen? 

We as Christians can count it all joy. Why? Because we know that the test of our faith will only serve to produce endurance and steadfastness. That will only make us stronger. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I lie awake at night praying for a depression. I don’t want to go through one of those anymore than anyone else. I’m totally unprepared for such an occurrence. But perhaps a testing such as that would be good for us. For Christians, it won’t be the end. It will merely be another time in which we can learn to more greatly rely on God. The more we rely on God, the stronger we will be. The stronger we are, the more we can accomplish for God’s kingdom, which is what is most important anyway.

Don’t fret the future. Just take it one day at a time. However, if the trial comes, lean on God and grow from it. The fact is, it is only the challenged who grow. The complacent who have it easy rarely do more than languish in their mediocrity.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 10, 2008 Posted by | Encouragement, Finances, James, money, relying on God | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hebrews 9-10: 4 Keys about Stirring Up One Another

Many churches hear a lot about Hebrews 10:25. They are told repeatedly how important it is to attend the assemblies of the congregation. Sadly, in our haste to convince Christians they should attend assemblies (which they should) we often miss Hebrews 10:24

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (ESV).

Notice four aspects of this verse.

1. Our goal is love and good works.

I Timothy 1:5 says the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith. That is what we are striving for in everything we do. We want to produce love in ourselves and in others. But this love is not some mystical, ethereal vapor of emotion. It is an active love that is meted out on a practical level by the good deeds we do every day. Ephesians 2:10 says God created us to walk in good deeds. Titus 2:14 says Jesus redeemed us so we could be a people zealous for good deeds. Christ’s goal for us was not merely our forgiveness. That was not the end of His work. Rather, forgiveness is the means to the end. We are forgiven of our bad deeds so we may be set free to perform good ones.

2. We must stir up one another to love and good deeds.

This word picture blows my mind. In the NASB, the word stimulate is used. That one doesn’t seem quite as harsh. But I always get a picture of an electric prod stimulating a muscle. The ESV and NKJV say stir up. Usually, when we hear that phrase, we mean someone is causing trouble. The KJV says provoke. That word usually means to make someone angry. The NIV says to spur on. That provides a picture of someone taking a sharp object and jabbing into the flank of a horse so it will move faster.

These word pictures usually represent something we would say is negative. Here, they are used as a positive. We are supposed to stimulate, provoke, stir up, spur on each other so we can all love and do good deeds. It is the image of one Christian telling another, “I am not going to sit idly by and just let you be a loser, half-hearted Christian.” 

3. We must consider how to stimulate one another.

Before we just jump on someone and start prodding them, we need to consider how to stimulate each other. Take a step back and consider the person, their place in their spiritual walk, their personality, their gifts. Then based on that figure out the best way to stimulate them. Don’t just jump up in their face; stop and think it through first. Titus 2:14 provides three options for stimulus (though you can certainly turn to other passages and find more).

Speak–Sometimes we stimulate others by merely talking to them and sharing with them the truths of God.

Reprove–Sometimes we need to expose error in someone’s life in order to spur them on to the narrow path of God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Exhort–Sometimes we need to catch people doing things right and encourage them to keep it up.

No doubt there is also a great example of stimulus in Titus 2:7. We should be models of good behavior, exemplifying what it means to love and do good things.

4. We must stir up one another.

This doesn’t say preachers must stir others up. It doesn’t say pastors must stir others up. It doesn’t say deacons must stir others up. It doesn’t say teachers must stir others up. It says we must stir one another up. This is our job because we are Christians. 

This means two things. First, I must be stirring others up. Second, I must be willing to let others stir me up. That is contrary to our nature. Usually, we want others to leave well enough alone. If they start trying to hold us accountable, we get angry. We need to be humble enough to let others speak to us, reprove us and exhort us. Otherwise we will grow weary in doing good.

Let’s remember to stir up someone today and let’s find someone who can stir us up to love and good deeds.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Encouragement, Friends, Hebrews, Love, Relationships, Responsibility | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hebrews 7-8: We Have a Covenant Enacted on Better Promises

passion-of-the-christHebrews 8:6 provides me with great hope. The Old Covenant was enacted on the promises of a Messiah who would come in the future. A Savior who would come and bring salvation. The covenant itself really could do nothing about sin and damnation. The Jews toiled under rigorous laws and never ending sacrifices only to learn in the end that all it taught was they were hopeless. They couldn’t keep it up.

We have a better covenant. We have a better mediator and better sacrifice. Our covenant has better promises. It is not enacted on promises of a coming Savior, but on promises of a Savior who has already come. It is enacted on the promise of a sacrifice that really can take our sins away right now. 

God had promised a time like this would come in Jeremiah 31:34: “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities and I will remember their sins no more” (quoted in Hebrews 8:12, ESV). That time is here and now. Praise God.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 5, 2008 Posted by | Encouragement, Hebrews, Jesus, salvation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Thessalonians 3-4: Comfort One Another with These Words

There were a couple of things in today’s reading that stood out, but how can I bypass these chapters without following the command at the end of them to comfort and encourage you with these words:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to me the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

I Thessalonians 4:13-17 (ESV)

There are two things that comfort me in this passage. 

1. If we live by faith, we can die by faith.

We do not have to face death with fear. We believe Jesus died and was resurrected, we know we will be as well. We know death is not an end, but merely a transition. We are not abandoned by Jesus when we die. Rather, we go to be with Him and will always be with him. What a comfort.

2. There is more than this life.

Some days life is just frustrating. I wonder why anyone would remotely want to keep on dealing with it. The reason…there is more to life than this life. There is something worth striving for when this life is over. I don’t want to give up because a victory is coming and I want to be on the winning side when it happens. 

Be comforted. Life is tough, but the goal waiting for us is worth everything we go through. Death may be hard, but for us it is a victory.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

October 8, 2008 Posted by | Comfort, Death, Encouragement, I Thessalonians, resurrection | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 4-5: Getting Past Discouragement


“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

II Corinthians 4:7-10 (ESV)

I need this attitude. How easily I get distracted and discouraged in my service to God because things in life aren’t easy. I get sick. Someone gets mad at me. Someone says something unkind. Somebody leaves the congregation. Somebody misunderstands me. These things happen and I get depressed and sometimes wonder why I keep trying. 

But then I remember Paul. He went through real trouble. Shipwrecks, beatings, persecutions, imprisonments, attempts on his life, thorn in the flesh… He kept his head up. He kept on in faith because he could see the big picture. All these things happened, but none of them took salvation away. None of them took heaven away. None of them took the love of God away. 

Sure, bad things happened to him. But the worst thing didn’t happen. God did not forsake Him. God won’t forsake me. God won’t forsake you. 

I think too often we get bogged down about all the blessings we would like but haven’t received that we forget the great blessing we have received. Jesus died for us and washed our sins away. He has reserved a home in heaven for us who are protected by the power of God through faith. I’m not shopping for a car here. What more could I ask for to sweeten this deal any better? 

I just need to keep in mind that the life of Jesus is in me, if I stay in Him and don’t let Satan discourage me and get me to turn my back on my Savior.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC 

September 30, 2008 Posted by | Encouragement, II Corinthians, perseverance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 2-3: Comforting the Penitent

“For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

–II Corinthians 2:6-7 (ESV)

As best I can tell (and I think this is pretty consistently considered to be the case), Paul is referring to the man mentioned back in I Corinthians 5:1 who had been committing sexual immorality with his step-mother. I think most of us would admit that was a pretty vile thing going on there. Back when Paul wrote his first letter, the Corinthians were acting like it was not a big deal. He rebuked them and told them to discipline the man that he might have shame and repent. Apparently he did. 

However, as Paul writes his second letter, the Corinthians had gone to the opposite extreme. They now had a penitent man and they would not accept him back. Paul had to rebuke them again. They needed to forgive him and more than forgive him, they needed to comfort him. This, of course, demonstrated the true nature of his penitence. He needed comforting. He was mourning over his sin now. 

I know I have had to let my brothers and sisters know about my sins. Up to the moment I confessed, I feared rejection and isolation. But my brothers and sisters did not reject. I was mourning and fearful. They embraced me, drew me in closer and then lifted me up. What a wonderful experience that was. I can hardly imagine how awful it would have been if I had tried to overcome sin while believing my brothers and sisters hated me. I would likely have given up. Instead, they loved me and that made all the difference.

Now I have to remember that when I see others who are penitent and confessing. They may have committed extremely vile sins, sins at which even the Gentiles would blanch. But when my brothers or sisters repent, I should not hold them at arms length. I do not put them on trial to see if their penitence is real or if it will stick. I need to forgive. I need to comfort. I need to embrace, lift up and help forward. I need to see them as my equals in Christ, not my underlings because their sin has merely been admitted more recently than my own.

Certainly, we must not coddle sin. We must not let it slip in unnoticed. But at the same time, we must not ignore the penitent. Isn’t that all of us?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

September 29, 2008 Posted by | Comfort, Encouragement, forgiveness, II Corinthians, Judging, Love | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Philippians 3-4: Pressing on for the Goal

I’m not sure that there is a more comforting set of verses than Philippians 3:12-14.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (ESV).

Wow! You mean Paul, the apostle, wasn’t perfect? He didn’t do everything right? I mean I know before he became a Christian he did some really bad things. I’ve always been certain he did become great the first day he was a Christian. But here he is writing letters to let people know how to live in their service to God and he claims he is still not perfect. He still has to grow. 

That just comforts me. I’ve been a Christian now for 22 years. That is hard for me to imagine. When I consider how badly I still mess things up spiritually I get very discouraged. Some days I even am willing to just throw in the towel. Why keep trying? 

Surely Paul felt that way sometimes. Yet, his response was to just keep pressing on. Think about it. If Paul could say he wasn’t perfect, then just like me, he could pinpoint somethings that had just happened that demonstrated his imperfection. Instead of allowing that to make him stop, he pressed on. He kept going. He understood that serving God is not about where we are, but about where we are growing.

If you’re like me, you can pinpoint a dozen things and more that have happened in the past few days to remind you how imperfect you are. Don’t let those get you down. Keep looking forward. Keep pressing forward. Keep running the race. As long as you don’t quit, you will win the prize.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

August 26, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Encouragement, perseverance, Philippians | , , , , , , | Leave a comment