Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Experiencing the Breath of God



Scripture:

2 Timothy 2:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Observation:

Timothy had been raised reading and studying the holy Scriptures. What we know of as the Old Testament was standard study for the Jews. While Timothy had a mixed heritage, his mother ensured his Jewish eduction and this remained with him and served as a vital foundation to his Christian faith. 

Timothy, the young pastor, as should any pastor, is encouraged to really know the Scriptures. The breath of God has blown through the written word and the words have come to life. It is this same Spirit which breathed life into the nostrils humanity that now blows through the written word. Only when one spends time breathing in the Spirit-filled word, does the breath of God truly bring the person to life. Suddenly one’s life becomes resonate with the very sounds of heaven. 

Application:

There are so many good books, videos, pod-casts and blogs available these days that we can become absorbed in a mass of information. While all of that is good, it should never be to the neglect of spending time in the word. The stress here is on the need to be saturated in the word of God, to become a servant of God. There must be time spent in preparation for this service, for to represent God, one must know God. 

For followers of Jesus Christ this is a serious challenge, for the mind and the mouth of a disciple ought to be one and the same. It is the breath of God found in the Scriptures that transforms the life of the believer.  We need the air flowing through our bodies to give us life in the Spirit. 

The word of God provides the pattern for our lives, teaching us what is false, what needs to be corrected, training us in a right understanding of things, and comforts and consoles us in our time of pain. But just as medication will only help us when we take it, so the Scriptures can only serve to bring us life when we deeply breathe in the Spirit-infused words. 

God breathed into the Scriptures so that the Scriptures may breathe life into us. Daily, we need to breathe deeply the word, and then we will experience the Spirit bringing us to life. 

Prayer:


Lord, breathe your Spirit in and through me. Amen. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Enticing Opposition



Scripture:

2 Timothy 3:8-9
As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these people, of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith, also oppose the truth. But they will not make much progress, because, as in the case of those two men, their folly will become plain to everyone.

Observation:

The message of the gospel was so radical that it went against the voices of society. There were those within the community who purported a gospel which was more enticing than the one preached by Timothy. Drawn by the love of money and power, there were those who believed that they could present a message that was more palatable. 

Jannes and Jambres are historical figures, believed to be the magicians who worked for Pharoah. Every time Moses presented the truth, they providing an opposing perspective which seemed a bit appealing, but eventually led to death. They could almost present the same works which Moses was doing, and therefore, they led both Pharoah and his people into a counterfeit faith. That faith was a reliance in themselves, a dependence upon their own skills and abilities. They were their own god, and therefore continually opposed the truth. Sadly, they led many to destruction because they cared more about themselves, than their people. They opposed God’s messenger and enticed people away out of selfish ambition. 

Application:

The gospel of Jesus Christ is very counter-cultural and is not always as appealing as the cheap religion that others may sell. The concern in Ephesus was for sexual purity. Christ-followers were to exercise self-discipline when it came to their sexual practices. Just because a person had particular desires didn’t give license to act out. The false voices of the world were encouraging them with enticing words. “Follow your heart.” “Do what you want to do.” “Why wouldn’t God want you to enjoy yourself.” All of these enticing words, almost the truth of God, but not really, became distractions to what Timothy was to be teaching. 

The love of self, and quite specifically money, can be an enticement away from the truth of the gospel. When someone comes and preaches a little more palatable gospel, one that gives license to the things we want to do, we can be easily enticed. In the long run, however, the easy gospel will not gain much traction because it ultimately will lead to destruction. 

Spiritual discipline in the area of sexuality is a requirement for God’s people. Generosity and restraint in financial matters are a great need. Discipleship, the call to a deeper walk with Jesus Christ is necessary for all of God’s followers. Beware of those who sell a cheap gospel. There was nothing cheap about what Jesus did for us. He gave everything that he had so that we may become like him. Our participation in Christ is only possible when let go of all the things that keep us tied to the world. We must release that which false teachers may entice us to cling to. Then, and only then, can we live in truth that will set us free. 

Prayer:


Lord, please give me a discerning heart, releasing anything that may hinder my life in you. Amen. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Stupid Quarrels



Scripture:

2Tim. 2:23 Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, 25 correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth, 26 and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

Observation:

It may be hard to imagine that there were stupid and senseless controversies in the city of Ephesus, before there was social media. It seems that humanity has always had a propensity for disagreement and it’s simply the medium in which those discussions have occurred that has changed. In the first century there were those who were professionally trained in rhetoric; generally known as lawyers, or ministers. They went to universities where they were educated in the art of disagreement. Among those with the highest skill was the Apostle Paul. He knew how easy it would be to become enticed by a good disagreement. It was literally a sport and yet, it was destroying the church. 

Ground rules were established for the young Timothy. Stupid quarrels would become a distraction to the real work of ministry. He needed to have an attitude of love toward those who wanted to constantly be engaged in senseless controversies. Instead of allowing himself to get carried away by his emotions, he was to respond with kindness. He was never to add fuel to the fire of the controversy, but in love, he was to help put it out. The fruit of the Spirit was to be revealed, as he responded with patience, and gentleness, providing correction out of a heart of love. 

Somehow the spirit of controversy is associated with being held in the snare of the devil. By becoming consumed with controversy, one is distracted from the real work of the kingdom, and in this way, the enemy wins the day. This is why it is so important to understand that stupid and senseless controversies breed stupid quarrels.  

Application:

One of the earliest heresies of Christianity was gnosticism. This was a dualistic approach to the world, one in which there was a separation between the mind and the body. One was able to reach out to higher intellectual ascent (knowledge — gnosis), but the body was considered unclean. This provided a great way in which to excuse behavior. One could be engaged in gaining greater knowledge about God, but the ways in which lives were lived on a daily basis didn’t need to change. Therefore, one could be seen as super-spiritual, if engaged in debates. This desire for greater knowledge could be affirmed by those who adopted this gnosticism. The problem was that transformed lives in the flesh would no longer be a reality if one embraced this way of thinking. It was a very dangerous threat to the church. 

We cannot assume that we are super-spiritual because we can engage in lengthy debates with the world of social media. The ability to blog, tweet, or engage in on-line discussions may be enticing us into a new world of gnosticism. We can become so engaged in the discussions that we forget that there are real people, in the flesh, living and dying around us. There are people who need us to put down our electronic devices and spend the day with them, listening to the pain they are experiencing in their lives. We need to know our people so that we can bring the sermons that they need to hear. Living “fleshly” lives we touch the pain of this world and carry with us the healing balm of Jesus Christ. Rubbing shoulders with real people in real need doesn’t leave room for stupid quarrels. 

There is time for discussion, but this is the time for action; God’s people, engaged in a very needy world, reflecting Christ and revealing the fruit of the Spirit in all that we do. In this way, we escape the snare of the enemy. 

Prayer:


Lord, please help me to genuinely live in this world and touch the lives of others for you. Amen. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Beautiful Diversity of Household Utensils



Scripture:

2Tim. 2:20   In a large house there are utensils not only of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use, some for ordinary. 21 All who cleanse themselves of the things I have mentioned will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work. 

Observation:

For the household to function at its highest caliber, there is a need for a full range of utensils. Hospitality is a reflection of a home and the earthly kingdom of God is to reflect the reality of the eternal koinonia found within God. Instruments are required for that hospitality and this includes household utensils. The wide variety of utensils required means that there must be great diversity within the household; hence, within the kingdom. 

In ancient practice some vessels were considered more valuable than others because of the materials out of which they were made. Within the kingdom those dividing walls were destroyed because all were needed for the kingdom’s purposes to be accomplished. No matter what kind of vessel, fancy, or simple, once cleansed, they became special utensils. They were now dedicated for kingdom work, and as a result, each unique and individual piece stood ready to be used for God’s good work. 

Application:

Chuck and I arrived home yesterday after being gone for nearly six weeks. In the last few months we have been working on getting settled into our new home, but part of it was not yet completed. We have been waiting on the kitchen so that we can get completely unpacked. When we got home the kitchen was ready to be moved into, and we were excited. Trying to deal with our jet-lag we decided that we should do all that we could to keep busy so we unpacked our suitcases and then began unpacking the kitchen dishes and utensils. There we discovered a wide array of items, some of which we have not seen in a very long time. Sometimes we looked at an item and wondered why in the world we had that one! 



At the same time, I kept looking for a place to put each one of these special and unique items. You see, we enjoy sharing hospitality with our family and friends, and I love using the different dishes and utensils that we own. On their own, these utensils may look like a hodgepodge, but when they are combined and put together for hospitality they create something more beautiful than we can imagine. 

Take the can opener for instance. It certainly doesn’t make a very beautiful centerpiece, nor does it make a nice serving dish. However, it’s really good at opening those cans of olives which we enjoy eating on special occasions. If we didn’t have the can opener, we wouldn’t get to enjoy the olives. 

The problem in the kingdom is that some utensils or dishes look prettier than others. We can become envious of those who look nicer, or who have, a perceived better role than we do. Who wouldn’t want to be the beautiful centerpiece? But the centerpiece may only be used once, lovely as it is, and then forgotten, but a can opener may be used almost every single day. 

The beautiful diversity of the household utensils needs to be seen within the kingdom of God. There is no reason to be jealous of one person or another. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the most ordinary can be transformed into the extraordinary and used to serve in the King’s household. The more diversity, the finer the hospitality. Just imagine enjoying the delicacies created by the instruments from every nation of this world! It’s a never-ending feast that reminds us of the marriage supper of the lamb. The variety of cleansed utensils opens up new possibilities that become a glimpse of heaven. Cleansed, ready, and always prepared to be of good use to the Master. 

Prayer:


Lord, I’m so grateful that you take our messes, and create something of great beauty. Amen. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Where Have You Deposited Your Faith?

Where Have You Deposited your Faith? 

Scripture:

2 Timothy 1:12b But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him. 

Observation:

Paul strongly affirms that he is not ashamed of being a Christian. Even if other people think of him as a lunatic on account of his work, he will not turn back. He has given everything that he has for the sake of the gospel. Some of the older translations use the word “deposit” to refer to Paul’s putting his complete trust in God. Other translations us the word “commended,” or what Paul has commended to God. Augustine suggests that Paul is saying that he has commended his faith to God for safe keeping. Others might say that Paul has deposited his faith into God’s bank, and that he is entrusting everything, his mission, and all that he holds dear, to God. When that is done, then no amount of questioning on the part of others will cause him to withdraw his deposit. 

Interestingly, when we think about this deposit into God’s bank, we discover the role of stewardship. In return, God entrusts to Paul his own treasure. There is mutual trust in this relationship and that’s why all of this is possible. It’s about a relationship. Paul has come to know the one in whom he is placing his trust. He has no doubt that his faith will be well-protected because he knows the protector. 

There was no need for anyone to try and convince Paul to turn his back on God. No matter how crazy his faith may have seemed to others, he would never be ashamed of the one in whom he had put his entire trust. 

Application:

We don’t sing a lot of the old hymns much anymore. Sadly, I think we’re missing out on some good theology and reminders of God’s great grace and power. This passage of Scripture obviously brings up this old hymn, “I know Who I have believed.” Let’s revisit the words: 

  1. I know not why God’s wondrous grace (I have no idea what God graciously reached out to me, a sinner)
    To me He hath made known, (
    He let me see his grace in action, revealing himself on the Damascus road)
    Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
    Redeemed me for His own. (
    Who was I, but a sinner. Jesus died for me when I was making fun of those who followed him) 
    • Refrain:
      But “I know Whom I have believed, (
      But I have come to know the one in whom I have put my trust)
      And am persuaded that He is able
      To keep that which I’ve committed
      Unto Him against that day.” (
      The Saviour I have come to know, is able to safely hold my faith until I get to see him again, face to face) 
  2. I know not how this saving faith
    To me He did impart, (
    I can’t explain how all of this happened to me, but I know that I’ve been transformed!)
    Nor how believing in His Word
    Wrought peace within my heart. (
    It was by my on-going study of the Word that the peace of Christ continued to grow in my heart. I’m not sure how that happened, but it’s been a miracle) 
  3. I know not how the Spirit moves, (I know the Spirit moves, but I can’t explain to you how)
    Convincing men of sin, (
    Yes, it is the Spirit who convicts us of our sin)
    Revealing Jesus through the Word, (
    The Spirit helps us see Jesus revealed through the reading of the Word)
    Creating faith in Him. (
    And somehow this develops within me a faith that I didn’t know I was capable of embracing) 
  4. I know not what of good or ill
    May be reserved for me, (
    I have no idea what my future looks like. There may be good days, or there may be bad)
    Of weary ways or golden days,
    Before His face I see. (
    I still have time to live my life, in weariness from the journey, or strengthened by the golden sunshine) 
  5. I know not when my Lord may come, (I don’t know when Jesus will come back again)
    At night or noonday fair, (
    Maybe it’ll be during the night while I’m sleeping, or in the middle of the day for all to see)
    Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
    (I don’t know if I’m going to walk this earth with Jesus)
    Or meet Him in the air. (
    Or whether I will meet him in my death)
It doesn’t matter, because I have come to know the one in whom I have put all my trust. I have deposited everything I have with my Lord, and I trust him fully. 

Where we have deposited our trust will greatly influence the way in which we will live our lives. Singing the old song of our faith is a gentle reminder of entire consecration. Becoming completely sold-out for Jesus Christ means that we deposit every part of our life  with the Lord. Nothing is held back — everything is put into the bank. The beauty is that in return God releases the treasures of heaven, and we become stewards in the kingdom. The hitch in all this, is that we must truly know the one in whom we place our deposit! 

Prayer:


Lord, thank you for your precious promises and faithfulness to us. Amen. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

When You’re Feeling Intimidated



Scripture:

2 Timothy 1:6-7 For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.

Observation:

Timothy was a young minister working in a situation where strong voices were spreading unsound doctrine. It seems that Timothy may have had a gentle spirit and have been intimidated by the older and more forceful voices. Foundational to tackling that which seemed to hinder Timothy’s minister, was love. The gift of God was Timothy’s love for God, that filled him to overflowing. He had entered into a covenant of grace, to serve as Jesus’ ambassador on earth, and affirmed by the laying on of hands. He was to remember that moment, and live his life in confidence. 

The presence of the Holy Spirit in Timothy’s life had been evidenced by those around him. Timothy should not feel intimidated, nor should he fear those who disagreed with him. Filled by the Holy Spirit, he was to do his work with confidence. At the same time he was to participate in the effort, by showing self-discipline, pressing forward, and expressing love to those who may disagree with him. 

Application:

It’s easy to feel intimidated when you’re young, and you don’t have a lot of confidence. Actually, you don’t even have to be young, because this is an affliction that can attack people of all ages. You want to please people and yet, when confronted with something that just doesn’t seem right, you’re not quite sure what to do. Living life nervously and with anxiety becomes commonplace in our stress-filled world. 

There are many reasons to feel intimidated. Sometimes it’s because someone has more knowledge and experience than you have. Other times it’s because someone is wielding power against you and you’re not quite sure why. Manipulation and threats, physical, emotional and sexual, may cause paralyzing fear and the contemplation of capitulation. All of the above can keep us from accomplishing that which God wants to do in and through our lives.

While the NRSV uses the word “cowardice,” others use the word “timidity.” For many of us, we may just find ourselves on a continuum somewhere between those two words. But then we are reminded of the transformational and empowering work of God’s Holy Spirit. The infilling presence of the Holy Spirit does not leave room for a spirit of cowardice. Instead of being intimidated, one continues to live into the power and presence of the Holy Spirit that exudes grace-filled love. The one who is intimidating probably has their own issues and may just need us to be pastoral in our response. That doesn’t mean that we submit to them, but graciously in love stand up for what is right, and for truth. It is in the power and strength of the Holy Spirit that we are able to do more than we could ever imagine, and face the giants that normally leave us trembling. 

Self-discipline must be part of our response, for we will only be empowered, if we take the time to be re-energized by the Spirit. Just as we must go to the gas station to fill up the car so that it will have the fuel to continue on its mission, so we must fill our spiritual tanks by spending time in God’s holy presence. Then, we must be disciplined to walk with the Lord out into a needy world and face those who may try to be intimidating. 

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Sedith, who reminded me what it means to be focused, self-disciplined and empowered by the Holy Spirit. 

Sunday dinner at the Sedith home. 

Her husband and daughter, Eunice, co-pastor the Toekomsrus church just outside of Johannesburg. It began in their garage and today they have a building that is filled to overflowing. Many of those who come to the church are there as a result of Mrs. Sedith, who has refused to be intimidated. She goes into the taverns and prays for God to lead her to someone. She teaches a “Way-Side” Sunday School out on the streets and today there are preachers in the church who were rescued because of her tenacity. She has been chased by someone with an axe, and prayed with the local Witch-Doctor to come to Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit oozes from this woman, who refuses to be a coward, but has an incredible spirit of love and self-discipline. 

Pastor Eunice leading the service. 


Intimidation comes in many forms, but there is a cure. Soak in the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, and then plan the work — and work the plan! To God be the glory. 

Prayer:


Lord, I want to be like Mrs. Sedith when I grow up. Amen. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

If You Are Rich



Scripture:

1 Timothy 6:17-19

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

Observation:

Obviously there were people within the church community of Ephesus who had financial resources. These people were also disciples of Jesus Christ and there were specific instructions to them. While having more resources than others may provide for certain opportunities in life, these people were not to be haughty. Even if they had riches they were not to trust in their material wealth, but to learn to trust in God. 

Just because someone is wealthy doesn’t mean that they are happy. Sometimes the burden of wealth can seem unbearable, but learning to trust in God provides an opportunity for enjoyment in life. This fosters a spirit of generosity where resources can be seen as a means of doing good. A sense of fulfillment is possible when one shares and invests in those things which will enhance the work of the kingdom of God. 

Application:

I’m afraid that often the church embraces a poverty mentality. Somehow we have accepted the idea that to have wealth we cannot be spiritual. While Jesus said that it was difficult, he also said that this was possible with the help of God. Therefore, we rejoice with those who have resources and who have learned what it means to be generous. 

If you read carefully about Jesus’ travels you discover that an entire team of people supports him. This includes a group of women who have financial resources and who provide the infrastructure food, etc. for the ministry. This is not unusual because we find the pattern repeated throughout church history. I often quote John Chrysostom, also known as the “Golden Tongue.” He was a great preacher in Constantinople near the end of the 4th century. His greatest supporter in ministry was a widow, Olympia, who was considered one of, or maybe the wealthiest citizen in the Roman Empire. When her husband passed away she inherited all of his earthly resources. She had become a Christian and used her resources to further the work of the kingdom. She financed much of Chrysostom’s ministry, but also had a great influence on others. We know that she also must have had a relationship with Gregory of Nyssa for her dedicates his Commentary on Song of Solomon to her. The wealthiest person in the Empire becomes the model of holiness. Yes, with God all things are possible!

If God has gifted you with resources, then use them for the sake of the kingdom. God may be wanting to leverage those resources to do much more than we could ever think or imagine. If, however, you are not one of those with resources, don’t look down on those who do. Don’t be afraid to associate with those who do, and make them feel just as welcome in the church as those who have nothing, for we are all members of the same family. Never take advantage of those who have resources, but let God speak to their hearts and allow them to develop the way in which they feel comfortable in giving and supporting the ministry. Just like family, don’t expect them to pay for everyone else. Everyone ought to pay their own way, and show respect for one another.

Let’s not believe that God expects us to be poor. Instead, let’s live into one of the motto’s of John Wesley’s life, “Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” 

Prayer:


Lord, may your spirit of generosity overflow in and through our lives. Amen.