Give Attention to Reading

Read through the Bible with friends

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

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

James 4-5: Don’t Let Tomorrow Mess Up Today

James 4:13-17 is a reminder I need today.

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (ESV).

I recognize the point of this passage is about relying on God and understanding that I cannot boast as if to say I am somehow by my own power going to ensure that I survive another year and by my own power will make sure the business I conduct is profitable. However, where this struck me today was the reminder that the reason such mental games are foolish is because I don’t even know if I’m going to be here tomorrow.

My problem is often the very opposite. Instead of thinking about how successful I’m going to be over the next year, I can get bogged down in worries. “Oh no, the economy is failing. What will that do to my income or my retirement or…” “Oh no, my kids are growing up and I know they are going to be faced with all kinds of temptations. What am I going to do about that?” 

One of the crazy “Oh nos” I have happened last night. My wife took the car to go to the store. It was raining like crazy and she lingered. Suddenly my mind was filled with fear that something bad had happened, at any moment the police were going to show up and now I was going to be a single father of four children. Actually, nothing happened to her. She showed up at home just as usual. However, this morning as I was stuck in traffic I started thinking about that scary possibility and I actually began to be filled with fear as if it were already true. How crazy is that?

The fact is, someday my wife will die. It may be before me or after me. It may be while the kids are at home; it may be after they are on their own. The thing is, it has happened today. She is at home right now doing her part of our family work. Why let all the possibilities of tomorrow over which I have no control mess up today.

You see it works both ways. I shouldn’t let my arrogance think I am going to ensure some success is going to happen apart from God’s will. At the same time, I shouldn’t let my fears about what might happen tomorrow send my today in a panic. Rather, I should just rely on God and pray “As the Lord wills.” Then, each day, I can rely on the strength He gives me to make it through whatever happens today.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

November 12, 2008 Posted by | Christian Living, Faith, James, relying on God, Surrender | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mark 9-10: What Mark’s Gospel is All About

No doubt, the Mount of Transfiguration experience was an amazing circumstance for Jesus and His inner circle. It was so profound to Peter he mentioned it when he wrote his second letter to the Christians dispersed throughout Asia  (cf. II Peter 1:18). 

For me, however, the more profound event is the one that occurred when Jesus and His circle returned from the mountain. The situation was not nearly as bad as when Moses returned from his mountaintop experience. However, Jesus returned into a hornet’s nest. The left behind disciples had been trying to heal a boy possessed of an unclean spirit but had failed miserably. The scribes were arguing with them. The boy’s father was pleading that they do something. The crowds were witnessing the whole thing.

I believe this is the central story and the key to grasping the purpose of Mark’s gospel account. It is certainly the central story as far as the order of writing. The middle verse of the book is Mark 9:16. However, it wouldn’t matter to me where this story was located in the book, I would still believe it is central to Mark’s theme. Everything in the gospel should be read in light of this story. It drives home the purpose of Jesus and His ministry.

Over and over again, Mark highlights the struggles the disciples had. Remember in yesterday’s reading we saw Jesus get exasperated with them because they still didn’t get it despite having seen Him feed 5000 with five loaves and 4000 with seven. The book will end with an intense highlight of the apostles not believing Jesus is resurrected despite His foretelling it and despite eye-witness testimony. In this story, we see the disciples lack of faith brought right to the front. Further, we see a man with a demon-possessed son provide the example for them. Jesus told the man, “All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23, ESV). This man then stood out as an example for the apostles, the crowd, the scribes and even for us. He replied: “I believe; help my unbelief!

That was where the apostles were. They believed, but their unbelief kept them from being able to cast out this unclean spirit. Check Jesus’ response to them when they asked why they failed. “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:29, ESV). That is to say, “The problem is you guys didn’t rely on God. You didn’t rest in your faith on God. You were trying to cast this demon out on your own.” They hadn’t acted in faith. Their unbelief kept them from using the abilities Jesus had given them to cast out unclean spirits. They may have thought they were somehow special because they had been picked by the master, but this unknown man with a demon-possessed son displayed more understanding and more faith than any of them.

More than the apostles, this is where I often am. I believe in God. I believe God. But in the moment of trial, where the rubber meets the road and my faith is put to the test, I often fall back on myself and my own strength. Instead of stepping out in faith and just doing things God’s way, I often revert to what makes sense to me. How many times do I have to pray, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

What is so powerful about this story is Jesus followed this statement up with a great miracle. He didn’t wait until the man’s faith was perfect. He acted based on this man’s understanding that he needed to grow in faith. When I recognize I am not perfect, my faith needs to grow and I throw myself on Jesus to help increase my faith, God will work in my life. The Christian life is about progress not perfection. 

I will pray it again. You can pray it with me.

I believe; help my unbelief!

God will help us. The rest of Mark’ gospel is all about that help. Read it all in the light of this verse and its faith building message will come alive for you.

Keep the faith and keep reading.

ELC

September 4, 2008 Posted by | Faith, Healing, Jesus, Mark | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment