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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

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

2 Corinthians 12-13: God’s Grace is Sufficient for Us

 

31, ESV)

"They shall mount up with wings like eagles..." (Isaiah 40:31, ESV)

One of the great things about the world wide web is that it is world wide. I don’t want to make the mistake of acting like everyone who reads this is American like me. However, American is the framework from which I come. I hope that folks from other countries don’t have the problem I’m about to describe. I think we American Christians sometimes allow our American citizenship to dictate our approach to life more than we do God’s word.

 

In the good ol’ U S of A, we are taught to be independent. We are taught to pull ourselves up by our boot straps and make it through the tough times. If we are going to rely on God it is only for the really tough times when we just need Him to give us a little push to get us over the hump we just can’t seem to climb. I recall being in the family conference area in the emergency room of a local hospital where one of my dear sisters was grieving the loss of her husband. This was on top of several other life tragedies she and her family had faced in the past year. A friend and co-worker, who was also a Christian thought he was helping this sister by telling her, “Sister, you can do this. You’re strong enough. You can make it.” Then he prayed, “God, our sister is going through a tough time. She just needs a little help. Help her see she is strong enough to make it through this.”

I couldn’t contain myself. As soon as this well-intentioned brother left, I knelt beside my grieving sister and said, “I know this brother meant well. But he is wrong. You aren’t strong enough for this. We’re not strong enough for this. We can’t make it through this stuff. But we have a God that is strong enough to get you through.” And then I grabbed the little Bible they had on the side table and read II Corinthians 12:8-10.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (ESV).

The reason so many American Christians struggle is because we have this idea that we are really strong enough for most things and that we only need to rely on God for a little nudge on the really tough stuff. The fact is, we need to recognize apart from God we can do nothing. I remember in a series I presented on prayer another well-meaning brother commenting that one of the problems we have in prayer is asking God to do things for us that we can do for ourselves. My question is which things are those? After all, it is through God that we live and move and have our very being (Acts 17:28). If our very life and ability to move comes from God, which thing is it that we can accomplish all on our very own? 

We need to get over this idea that we are strong enough for anything. We need to recognize that we are weak and powerless. The only way we can have any victory at all is to simply surrender ourselves to God and His will. We need to just throw ourselves on His grace because it is sufficient. 

Consider one great contrast–Moses. When Moses simply supposed that everyone would understand he was God’s chosen vessel to deliver the Israelites, he ran from Egypt in fear with his tail tucked between his legs. However, when he believed he was too weak and couldn’t possibly be the man to lead Israel, God brought great victory through Him. We have to realize we are only able to stand because of the legs God has given us and simply surrender to Him. His grace is sufficient, our strength isn’t.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

October 6, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, II Corinthians, Powerlessness, relying on God, Surrender | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Galatians 1-2: Surrendering to Christ

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. An the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 (ESV)

Being a Christian does not just equal a moment of faith and then I get to do what I want. It doesn’t even equal being baptized and then trying to make it “to church” regularly. Really living as a Christian means living like Christ.

In this passage, it presents the picture of being crucified with Jesus. It calls to mind the teaching we read in Romans 12:1, which said we should be living sacrifices. This is about sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed Himself for us, we should sacrifice ourselves for Him.

This is a picture of total surrender. Instead of fighting against Jesus, trying to go our own way and do our own thing, we simply do what Jesus wants. We act as though He is the conquering King who has the right to tell us how to live.

Allow me to give another picture of surrendering to Christ and sacrificing ourselves for Him. Too often, we view this as trying to be obedient enough to go to heaven. We sometimes think we are trying to measure up and check off the list in enough ways to make the grade so we can get into heaven.

Let me share an illustration. Once, I went white water rafting. The first thing the guide said was that we had to listen to her absolutely. If she said paddle, we had to paddle. If she said lean right, we had to lean right. If she said get in the bottom of the boat, we needed to get into the bottom of the boat. Why did we do what she said? Did we do that because we were trying to measure up? Did we think if we obeyed her enough we would be good enough and therefore not fall in the water? No. We recognized that she knew what she was doing. Her way would work. Therefore, we surrendered our will to hers. Sometimes I was tired and didn’t want to paddle, but she said paddle, so we did. Sometimes it seemed to us that we needed to lean left, but she said lean right. So we leaned right. Sometimes, we wanted to ride high, but she said get down in the boat. We got down in the boat. Sometimes, we didn’t know which way to hit the rapids, so we just paddled the direction she said. She was the guide. We surrendered to her direction.

That is what Jesus wants us to do. He wants us to realize He is the guide and His way works. Even when we can’t see how or where His way is leading, we need to simply surrender to His direction. 

What is Jesus saying to us today through His word? Let’s just do it, surrendering to Him because His way really does work.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

August 15, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Crucified with Christ, Galatians | , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 27-28: The Scriptures are Inspired, the Apostles Aren’t

Acts 27:9-10 used to give me a great deal of trouble.

“Since much time had passed, and the voyage was now dangerous because even the Fast was already over, Paul advised them, saying, ‘Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives'” (ESV)

After all, here was Paul, an inspired apostle, saying there would be great loss of life on this ship. But, in the end, no life was lost. Acts 27:44 says, “And so it was that all were brought safely to land” (ESV).

This actually teaches me something about apostleship and inspiration. I don’t know why I have ever referred to the apostles as the “inspired apostles” as if somehow everything they said came directly from God. The Bible never calls them that. And yet, I have heard that taught and I have said it myself. This passage, however, demonstrates that the apostles were not inspired. The Bible teaches that the Scriptures the apostles wrote were inspired in II Timothy 3:16-17, but it never says the apostles themselves were inspired.

When Paul told the captain there would be no loss of life, he wasn’t speaking for God. His every word was not inspired. Only what God wanted him to write down as Scripture was. Therefore, God did not fail here. Paul did not fail. Paul was simply relying on his knowledge of sea travel to make this statement. Of course, it would have been true had God not intervened.

When Paul later told his shipmates no loss of life would come, that was true because that came from the angel of God.

Anyway, the whole point of this is to clarify our language. Paul wasn’t an inspired apostle. Neither were any of the other apostles. Rather, God used the apostles and prophets to record His inspired word. We had better listen to it.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

August 4, 2008 Posted by | Acts, The Bible | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 23-24: Christians are Troublemakers

The Rotten Scoundrel

Paul: The Rotten Scoundrel

Just listen to the non-Christian Jews in Acts 23-24 and you will learn the truth. Christians are just troublemakers. Just look at what these guys have to say about Paul to the Roman officials.

We have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He tried to profane the temple, but we seized him” (Acts 24:5-6, ESV)

The only problem is, none of it was true. The fact is, this kind of nonsense has been going on for 2000 years. If we can’t find a good reason to be mad at the Christians, let’s just make something up. Therefore, we should not get too upset when people today get mad at us for trying to force our views on the world when all we are doing is trying to persuade folks with logic, reason and, yes, even faith. Let’s not get too upset when they say we are judgmental because we suggest that folks might be wrong sometimes. Let’s not get too upset when they trump up charges that just aren’t true. And most of all, let’s not back off from getting the only message that will save souls out to the world just because people accuse us of being closed-minded and unloving.

The fact is, everyone who makes those judgments will at some point find out just how loving we are being by passing the message on. They will either learn that when their eyes are opened by God’s word to the truth of Jesus’ message. Or they will learn when it is too late. But all will learn on some day that we tried to bestow love.

Now, having said that. Let me hit the other side. Sadly, too often, those who claim to be Christians have given reason for others to make accusation. No doubt, the biggest one we hear is the Crusades. But if that stands out as the most extreme example that everyone highlights, there have sadly been a thousand seeming trifling examples of Christians living like the world, taking their revenge, seeking their selfish ways, condescending with arrogance.

We should not be upset when folks wrongfully accuse and malign us. It happened to Paul, we should expect it to happen to us. At the same time, we must not give cause to receive truthful accusation. When we have given that cause. We had better make amends quickly.

Keep the faith today and keep reading.
ELC

July 31, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Christian Living, Evangelism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 15-16: 5 Keys to an Evangelistic Lifestyle

With the conversions of the households of both Lydia and the Philippian Jailer, Acts 16 is a great place to learn about how to live an evangelistic lifestyle. Note 5 keys we learn from the chapter.

1. Know the message: In Acts 16:13-14, Paul and Barnabas obviously knew the message they needed to preach to these women. Further, in Acts 16:32, they knew the message to give to the Jailer when he questioned them. No matter what else we do, if we don’t know the message, we can’t be evangelistic.

2. Know where the prospects are: In Acts 16:13, Paul and Barnabas knew where the Jews would meet in the absence of a synagogue. We are probably not looking for a riverside religious meeting. However, we need to be able to tell where the prospects are. They aren’t in our church buildings. They are out in the world. Salt is only useful when it comes in contact with what needs to be salted.

3. Care about people, no matter how they have treated you: I can’t help but think how many of our modern vengeance minded Americans would have acted when the Jailer was about to off himself. Instead of stopping him, many would have thought “good riddance” regarding the man who had placed them in stocks and, no doubt, treated them with disdain. But Paul and Barnabas cared about people. Despite how the jailer had treated them, they wanted him safe. That only comes when we actually care about people.

4. Be a Christian everywhere, displaying your spirituality: Certainly, we are not supposed to shine our lights so people will somehow think we are special. However, we do need to display the light so folks will glorify God. Whether we find ourselves beside the river with a specifically planned time of evangelism or find ourselves in prison, we need to live like Christians displaying our spirituality. No doubt, evangelism is about us going and teaching. But at times, it is also about us just living right so that when people who are not interested right now become interested later, they know where to turn. That is exactly what happened in Acts 16:29-30. The Jailer had not been interested, but suddenly his perspective changed. He knew where to turn for answers not because Paul and Barnabas had already had a Bible study with him. But because they had displayed their spirituality, living as Christians no matter where they were.

5. Don’t stop because of rejection: In Acts 16:16-24, Paul and Barnabas suffered a tremendous rejection. It was so strong, they were thrown in jail. I could see how that would be a tad bit discouraging. However, it didn’t stop them at all. Instead, they just kept right on being Christians. They just kept right on living out evangelism.

I hope and pray we all develop this kind of lifestyle and spread the gospel to all who will hear.

Keep the faith and keep reading

ELC

July 25, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Baptism, Christian Living, Evangelism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Acts 13-14: Responding to Prejudice against Christians

Acts 14:2-3 jumped out at me today. “The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time...” (ESV). 

Wow!

Is that how I would respond? So often, when people’s minds are poisoned against me as a Christian, I shrink back. When I think folks aren’t going to want to listen, that’s when I decide to keep quiet or decide to move on. If I hear someone say a name or something derogatory, I begin to think there is no point in trying to talk to them about spiritual things.

But that is not what Paul and Barnabas did. When the minds of the Gentiles were poisoned against them, they remained longer. 

They saw the biases, that only made them work harder. They heard the names, that only caused them to shine brighter. 

Yes, I know when their lives were in danger they went to the next city, but let’s face it, when has my life ever been in danger because I’m a Christian. Sure, people have their minds poisoned against me and against us, but here in America our lives aren’t threatened. Instead of backing off when we think people are prejudiced against God’s message, we should stay longer and work harder.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Acts, Christian Living, Evangelism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment