Wednesday, 31 December 2008

After he patiently endured

And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. – Hebrews 6v15

I trembled at the voice of God
A voice of love and thunder deep
With love He means to save us all
And Love has chosen you and me

Long after we are dead and gone
A thousand years our tale be sung
How faith compelled and bore us on
How barren Sarah bore a son
So come to Canaan, come

These are a few of the words from Andrew Peterson’s marvellous song ‘Canaan Bound.’ It expresses the blessedness of patiently enduring our days until God fulfils His promise.

Abraham had been promised that he would be the father of a great nation, that his descendents would outnumber the stars in heaven and the grains of sand on the seashores. Years passed and nothing happened. Abraham at one point resorted to his own machinations, yet still he had to wait.

But at the end Abraham patiently endured. He just learned to wait, and eventually God fulfilled His promise.

When it seems that all we do is plod along and endure may we all remember the marvellous fact that in response to God’s promise ‘barren Sarah bore a son.’

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Don’t get sluggish

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. – Hebrews 6v11-12

Ouch. What a perfect time to come across this verse. This is our fourteenth Christmas fortnight in Ireland. I have to say that we have become fully culturally acclimatised to this strange two week period. For several years everything was basically shut down over ‘the Christmas.’ Things have changed and now many shops are open, but it is still a very unusual time. People may get together a bit, but basically people just tend to vegetate in front of the telly watching a plethora of ‘Christmas movie.’ Of kind of Christmas lethargy and sluggishness develops.

I guess in some ways that is okay. We stay busy right up through Christmas with church activities, but from then right up until the new year there is very little going on. It is a nice break and something of a holiday for us. I know that God has nothing against a little break now and then, but if I am not very careful I can allow that the physical sluggishness become spiritual sluggishness.

It is today, right in the middle of this unusual time that I come across this passage – ‘don’t become sluggish.’ Instead we are encouraged to ‘show the same diligence and imitate those who endure on with faith and patience.’

This time period is an easy one in which to let our guard down. Thank God for this reminder to avoid the spiritual sluggishness which has a way of slipping in.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Out of sight, out of mind - not!

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labour of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. - Hebrews 6v10

There are some ministries where if we didn’t know better we might think that no one notices and that everyone has forgotten about us. There are some ministries and ways of service that can be very, very lonely. This can be tough when people serve the Lord far away from their family and friends when the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ seems to apply.

In those situation the truth of Hebrews 6v10 can be a special blessing – ‘God is not unjust to forget your labour of love that you show by ministering the saints.’ Others may not see it, others may forget. “Out of sight, out of mind,’ may fit with others.

God, however, is not ‘others.’ We are never out of His sight and never out of His mind. He doesn’t forget the ways that we show out love by ministering to each other. Every little thing we do to serve each other is seen and remembered by God. He doesn’t miss it!

‘Out of sight out of mind’ may apply to even the most well intentioned of people, but it certainly does not apply to God.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

With confidence

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4v15-16

This relates closely to a post made a couple of days ago. We have great comfort in knowing that we have a High Priest who can truly sympathise with our weaknesses because He has been there Himself.

In addition to that great truth today we see that because of that we can enter god’s throne room with absolute confidence and boldness that He is fully able to provide the mercy and help that we have in time of need. When I talk to Him now I can do so confidently that He knows what I am talking about and what I am going through.

When I pray I don’t need to worry about things like, ‘Can God really understand this? How can He get it – He is God after all. He lives in heaven and doesn’t have to deal with all this.’

But He does know. He would have known anyway. But now our minds can comprehend that He understands and that comprehension gives us confidence and boldness and that He can and will provide mercy and help no matter what our need is.

So no matter what we are facing today – no matter what the struggles, the hurt, and the pains, He knows, and we can confidently go to Him for mercy and help in those times of need.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Nothing hidden

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. - Hebrews 4v13

I am afraid that we all deal with a certain kind of sin that we don’t like to talk about much. This is that that certain son, whether in action or in mind, that we are able to keep hidden. Maybe it is lust, maybe it is unjustified anger, maybe it is selfishness, or pride, or whatever. Through the years we become masters at keeping it hidden so that we begin to think that no one really knows.

There is one thing that we too often forget – nothing we do is hidden from God. All things are naked and open to His sight. Even the sins that don’t manifest themselves on the surface He still sees. Those innermost thoughts and those private actions are wide open to Him – He doesn’t miss a thing.

Why is it that we are more concerned about what others see than what God sees? What is it that it doesn’t seem quite so bad when only He knows? Why is it that we are embarrassed for someone else to catch us, but don’t care that we are naked and open before a perfect and holy God?

Friday, 26 December 2008

Cutting right to the heart of the matter

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. - Hebrews 4v12

I have to admit that I still find Hebrews a challenging study, and indeed and challenging devotional read. I have studied it, preached out of it, and taught the whole book; and yet I still am challenged and questions constantly rise to the fore.

I am therefore glad to come across verses that are clear and obvious in their meaning. Even though there are times when the word of God is difficult for our human minds to grasp, one truth remains – it is still alive and powerful and has the ability to cut right to the core of the matter in our hearts. It alone has the ability to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

You and I can look at a person and make some determinations by a person’s lifestyle. We can clearly say something like, ‘That person is not behaving like a Christian.’ But the truth is that only God’s word can discern their thoughts and intents. It is the only think powerful enough to cut right to the quick. That is why it is so powerful and why we are called upon to boldly proclaim it.

Let us never forget that as we hear God’s word preached, as we study it on our own, and as we spend time daily in it, that it is more than just words on a page (or a computer screen.) It is alive, it is powerful, it is sharper than any two-edged sword, it is able to divide soul and spirit and joints and marrow, it discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. Nothing cuts to the heart like the ever dynamic word of God.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

There remains a rest

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. - Hebrews 4v9-10

Speaking of all the turmoil and the stuff we all have to deal with, at least we as believers have the ability to run to our haven of rest and find a break in the midst of it all. We do have some measure of rest as we live for, serve, and find strength and comfort in the rest He gives us even now.

And yet we have another rest coming, the same kind of rest that God had on the seventh day. There is a day coming when the labour will be over, the trials and tribulations passed, and the struggles done,

It is that final perfect rest that keeps us going. It is that rest that makes all this worthwhile. There is a final rest coming, may we keep our focus there and stay faithful to the end.

By the way, a very Happy Christmas to all.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Consider Christ Jesus

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. – Hebrews 3v1-2

There is so much to consider and think about at the moment isn’t there. In these days our thoughts are constantly drawn to all the bad news we are hearing. Today’s headlines, for example, are saying that this may be Ireland’s worse economic times in a century. We think about the Christmas shopping and the Christmas meals and getting the presents wrapped and who is calling over and where we have to go. Some of us are thinking about all the ‘stuff’ that comes with living our every day lives. There is a lot to think about, isn’t there.

But what about this thought in he midst of all this stuff? ‘Consider Christ Jesus.’ Specifically here we are challenged to consider his faithfulness, but we do this passage no harm by just being reminded of think on Him. Because He is faithful all the rest can take a back seat.

Pause for a moment from all the stuff running around in your head and take some time to consider why we have this Christmas season, consider Jesus!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Been there, done that

For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. – Hebrews 2v18

There is more on this marvellous truth in chapter four, but for now there is just a hint at a special blessing.

Whenever we go through a tough time we like to have someone to talk to. It is always nice to have anyone to talk to, but it REALLY helps to talk to someone who has been through what we are going through. Unless they have ‘been there and done that’ that can’t really understand. That is the reason that ‘support groups’ are so popular. We like to know that people have been through what we are going through so they can really get what we are talking about.

Support groups are fine, I suppose, but as believers we have One who can REALLY understand. Jesus, Himself, suffered and went through trials and testings so that we can know that He truly understands. He has been there and done that. We can know that we are not going through this alone. Therefore we can know for sure that He is able to help us in our time of greatest need.

Praise God for the only One who can really understand everything we will face. And Praise God that He is ready and willing to help!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Not ashamed to call us brethren

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, - Hebrews 2v11

I always have a hard time even talking about this. It almost seems to verge on blasphemous pride. It is a truth so incomprehensible that it makes me uncomfortable to talk about it, but this passage says that because He that sanctifies (Jesus) and those who are sanctified (us) he is not embarrassed to call us His brethren.

I have a hard time getting my head around that. I know all of the theological reasons, the truths, and the proofs, but it is astounding to me. We have a family who come to our Kids Klub and Sunday School. They have two daughters, Sally and Annabelle. Sally is nine, a lovely, vivacious, and talented little girl. Annabelle is seven, beautiful, but autistic. Being autistic, sometimes Annabelle does things in public that might be embarrassing. You might expect Sally to be ashamed of her little sister. But Sally is far from that. She is so happy that Annabelle is her little sister, nothing could make her ashamed.

I know that all human illustrations are imperfect, but isn’t this something like Jesus not being ashamed to call us brethren. He sees beyond our weakness and frailty to see us like children of God. Since He is the Son of God that makes us His brethren. Despite some of the embarrassing things we do He still recognises us as part of his family.

What is really tragic is that we can be more ashamed of Him than He is of us. What a terrible indictment on us. He is not ashamed to call us brethren, but how often are we ashamed to name His as ours.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Oh Captain, My Captain

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  – Hebrews 2v10 

O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead. 

Thus begins Whitman’s classic poem about Abraham Lincoln the American ship of state. The nation had endured a bloody civil war, but now it was over, the trip was over and the ship of state was calling into port to the adulation of the masses. 

There was tragedy on deck – the captain who had led them on the journey lay dead, cold and lifeless. The one who had guided the ship had done so bravely, but did not make it home. 

It is a beautiful and sentimental poem, but is melancholy. There was joy in he victory, but sadness at the captain’s death. 

As believers we also have a captain. Jesus was made the captain of our salvation. Like Lincoln in the poem His captaincy involved suffering and death. But there is a difference, when our journey is over and we sail into our heavenly port our captain is alive and well. Lincoln could conquer and enemy, but he could not conquer death. Our captain, Jesus, will conquer all enemies and all foes, including death. Because our captain conquered it there is now nothing for us to fear! Maybe we can tweak the first stanza of Whitman’s poem to speak of our captian. 

O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lives
Victor though once dead! 

Saturday, 20 December 2008

We see Jesus

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. – Hebrews 2v9 

I want to include the end of verse eight here for the context – ‘…For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.’ 

Jesus came to ‘put all things under His feet,’ and now they are. Everything is under His control. Obviously we cannot see everything yet. Not seeing it all can be a great frustration. We all want to know why it is all happening. It is not good enough to know what is happening, we want to see the whole picture.

And yet we read here in verse eight that we ‘do not yet see all things put under Him.’ Simply put, we don’t see the whole picture yet. We can’t see it all. 

But then isn’t that what faith is all about? It is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Faith is about believing in things we cannot see. 

Still we can see something – ‘we see Jesus’ who was made like us so that He might taste death for us.’ When we can’t figure it out and we can’t see what is going on we can still see Jesus. He is the One, as the origin and completion of our faith, that we need to look to. 

We can’t see it all – but we can see Jesus!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Why do You bother with man?

 But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? – Hebrews 2v6 

Think about it – why would God bother with us? He is perfect, holy, righteous, just, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal, unchanging, perfectly wise and loving, and so much more. 

We, on the other hand, are wretched, vile, we cannot do good, our feet our swift to shed blood. Man is at enmity with God. Our sin nature dominates and controls us. The best of our good works and righteousness is a stench in His nostrils, nothing more than filthy menstrous rags. 

Why indeed would He bother? There is no one righteous, no, not a single one. All have sinned and fallen short of His glory.

Why? Because ‘He first loved us.” Because, ‘God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. Because, ‘while we were still sinners Christ died for us.’ 

How do we answer the psalmist as quoted in Hebrews? ‘What is man?’ 

Filthy, wretched, vile, hopeless sinner – yes, but also the object of His divine and perfect love. 

Thursday, 18 December 2008

More Earnest Heed

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. – Hebrews 2v1

It is easy to fall into the trap that the Christian life is something in which we can just coast along and never worry about it. We think that as long as we are going to church and doing the Christian ‘things’ we are okay. We think that coasting along is good enough.

The writer of Hebrews spells it our differently – ‘we must give the more earnest heed to what we have heard.’ If not, we are in danger of drifting away, not from salvation, obviously, but from the strength and stability we find in those truths.

Like everything else our walk with the Lord requires diligent application. If I do not daily apply myself to my marriage the feelings and attachments will drift. The same is true with the things of the Lord. If I don’t apply ,myself regularly to His word and the things I have learned they will, slowly but surely drift away and I will not have that kind of fervent relationship with Him that is so vital.

Living for Him takes constant effort and application. We can’t just sit back and get it by osmosis. To live for Him requires this ‘utmost heed to the things we have heard.’

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Ministering spirits

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1v14

We are back to one of those topics that causes me as many questions as answers. The previous verse has just told us that Jesus is better than the angels, then we are told that they [the angels] are sent forth to ‘minister to those who will inherit salvation.’ From all indications there is some way that the angels today have a role in ministering to believers.

How do they minister to us? What do they do? Do they directly intervene? Do they push us off the railroad tracks just in time to avoid an oncoming train? ( I am nearly convinced that this one happened to us near Corinth, Mississippi? Do they remind us to look just one more time before crossing the road? Do they distract us to keep us from crossing a junction and avoid being hit by a car breaking a traffic light?

I don’t know. But I do trust God’s word enough to believe that they do minister to us.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

You remain

They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. Hebrews 1v11-12

The older I get the more I realise that truth that everything changes. Things get old and wax away. All my friends are getting older. I visit places where I used to live and can’t recognise them. I watch old news stories and think how young and vivacious the people look and then realise that they are all dead now.

Everything does indeed change and it will continue to do so. One day it is all going to be done. Even this wonderful old earth will have served its purpose and will be ‘folded up like a garment.’

The great thing is that no matter want happens we do have a great Constant. ‘You [Jesus] will remain…you are the same…your years will not fail.’ We get old and pass away. Our friendships and relationships change. Nothing really stays the same.

Yet, how marvellous that our Jesus will still be here at the end. He won’t will still be same, and we will be able to be with Him forever and ever because His years will not cease.

Monday, 15 December 2008

By the word of His power

who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, - Hebrews 1v3

Isn’t amazing how it is so easy for us to think that we know what is best and we could do things so much better than God if we only had the chance? It is easy to question Him when things happen that we don’t like. It is easy to wonder if He is really in control.

There is so much in these first few verses of Hebrews that it is hard to pick out one thing to focus on. Jesus, as the brightness of God’s glory and the perfect expression of His person, now upholds all things by the word of His power. He proved that by the greatest feat of all when He purged our sins and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Jesus who upholds all things today is the same Jesus who spoke all things into existence. He is the same Jesus who purged me of my sins. There is nothing I can imagine that would take more power than creating the world and purging my sin.

So what does this all mean? It means that every single moment that goes by Jesus is upholding everything with the power that created the world and purged my sin. He is in control – His power is absolute.

And we dare to think that we could do it better? When do we do that? Every time we question His leadership and the things that He brings into our lives. God is still on the throne with the vast power of His greatness!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Put it on my account

If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. – Philemon 1v17-18

Paul knew that it would not be easy for Philemon to accent Onesimus as a brother and an equal. Servitude in those days was often a way to settle a debt. From the context here it looks like Onesimus was such a ‘slave’ who ran away before all of his debts were paid.

Onesimus had become a brother in Christ. Paul was willing to go out of his way to make sure that Philemon and Onesimus had things sorted out. Paul’s words were simple enough – ‘if you count me as a partner in Christ receive Onesimus back just like you would receive me.’

He took it further though – ‘if he still owes you anything put it on my account.’ It is hard to argue with those words or that attitude.

Paul was trying to set an example. He was willing to take on Onesimus debts even if he was not involved at all. I don’t know if sarcasm was ever a part of Paul’s speech, but it almost seems it here because he goes on to say, ‘you owe me your own self besides.’

Here is a great lesson in forgiveness. It does not appear to be much room for an attitude that says, “you owe me this or that and I am going to get it back!’

Think of the debt Jesus forgave us. Do we have any room to hold the debts of others against them?

Saturday, 13 December 2008

For love’s sake I appeal to you

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ - Philemon 1v8-9

There is a lot that we can learn from Paul and how he deals with people. Here he is going to need to deal with Philemon on a difficult issue. Onesimus was Philemon’s slave who had run away. Paul had met him and Onesimus had been saved. Paul was writing to ask Philemon to take him back as a brother in Christ.

Paul mentions that he has the authority to command Philemon to take him back, but that is not how Paul likes to operate. “I want to appeal to you for love’s sake.’ So much of what Paul says and does is based on attitudes even more that actions. He did not want Philemon to receive Onesimus back because he had to. He would rather Philemon receive him back out of love. He wanted Philemon to do it just because that is how brothers and sisters in Christ treat each other.

What motives us to do right? Do we do it because we ‘have to’ or do we do it because of the love of Christ and the saints?

What is our motivation? I think it is clear that love should be out key motivating factor.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Refreshing the hearts

For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.
- Philemon 1v7

There is so much about Philemon that I admire. I have always been challenged by Paul’s words when he writes that ‘the hearts of the saints’ have been refreshed by Philemon.

I love to be around people like that. Being around them is a joy. They are loving and encouraging. You leave feeling like you can face anything because they have encouraged you so much. When you spend time with them you feel like you have been on holiday and have the strength to go on.

On the other hand there are Christians who you dread being around. They have all bad news, discouragement, and defeat. You go in to them feeling bad and walk out feeling worse. You feel like, ‘what’s the use?’ Its kind of a ‘paper cut and lemon juice’ situation. They are either angry and belligerent or gloomy and depressing.

I wonder how other people feel after they have been around me. Am I like Philemon, or the doom and gloomers?

I want to be like Philemon. By God’s grace might I be a ‘heart refresher.’

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Your love and faith

I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, - Philemon 1v4-5

I love this little book of Philemon. One can almost sense the friendship and closeness between Paul and Philemon. It is a perfect illustration of loving instruction, rebuke, and correction.

Philemon must have been quite a guy. I can’t wait to meet him. The church met in his home. I know from experience what that is like. That in itself can be interesting t say the least. I think it is an indication of his character that he was willing to open up his home as a place for believers to meet for worship.

When Paul starts the letter he begins by giving thanks for Philemon and reminding him that he prays for him regularly. Two things stick out from the very start. Paul remembers Philemon’s love and his faith. It is not just his love and faith toward the Lord, but also his love and faith toward al the saints.

I like this combination of love and faith. I can love Christ more because I have faith in Him and my faith increases the more I love him. The more I love others the more I will manifest my faith and the best way to be faithful is to love them more. That doesn’t mean that we overlook sin and faults, but it means that our faith allows us to deal with each other in a loving manner.

The rest of the letter Paul goes on to give Philemon an opportunity to show that wonderful combination of faith and love.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

To meet urgent needs

And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. – Titus 3v14

I am grateful for the training and instruction I received in my early days. It laid a strong and solid foundation that has blessed me greatly. I am glad for the rock solid foundation of the word of God and a love for people.

There is one area that was not big though, and an area that I still need to work on, simply because I don’t think about it. Paul reminds Titus to ‘let our people learn to maintain good works.’ I have to say I honestly strive to do that. I want my works to glorify God and point to the Saviour.

But there is another way to be fruitful – ‘meet urgent needs.’ I am afraid that too often I am not quick to meet these urgent needs. I just don’t make myself aware of them. It is an area that was not a big part of most of the churches I have attended. We left that to the liberal churches.

I know that my lack of training is no excuse though. The word of God is clear; we must be aware of and quick to meet these urgent needs. May I allow God to open my eyes to these ‘urgent needs’ and give me the wisdom to meet them.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Reject a divisive man

Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. – Titus 3v10-11

Paul writes a lot about peace, love, compassion, forgiveness, not speaking evil, and things like there. It is obvious that this should be the norm amongst believers.

The word ‘reject’ therefore is a strong word for Paul to use. It seems like it must certainly apply to some type of wicked, vile, horrible, reprehensible sin. For believers to reject someone is for them to step out of character.

So what kind of person are we called on to reject here? The King James used the word ‘heretic’ here, but to our modern ears the word ‘divisive man’ better describes the person.

The heretic, the schismatic, the divisive man; how do we deal with that. We have the pattern set back in Matthew – we admonish him once, we admonish him again, and if he still refuses to repent we reject him, totally and absolutely.

We are all going to have differences. We are going to have opinions and ideas. That is normal, but when we let those ideas and opinions cause divisions we must expect rejection.

The body must be unified. We must be one. There is no room for causing divisions. I must be very aware and careful that my own actions or words ever cause divisions amongst believers.

Monday, 8 December 2008

To speak evil of no one

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. – Titus 3v1-2

I realise that sometimes we must speak out about false teachers. I realise that sometimes we have to expose error. I realise that sometimes we must speak out against dangerous doctrines and people who espouse them.

And yet the word of God is clear that this kind of speech cannot be our normal practice. We as Christians can be quite accomplished tearing people up with our tongues. Sometimes we think that the best way fro us to look good is to make others look bad.

Here though Paul makes it very clear in his words to Timothy – ‘speak evil of no one.’ I think part of the key here that we speak evil of their actions or their teachings without speaking evil of them. Our job is to seek peace, not conflict. We are to seek humility in our dealings – not arrogance.

What would my life and testimony be like if I just took these simple words to heart? What if I determined, by the grace of God not to let my feelings and emotions get in the way and if I acted in humility instead of self-centredness?

‘Speak evil of no one’ is quite a challenge.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Zealous of good works

…who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. – Titus 2v14

God knows just when to bring the right passage into our lives. Such is the case for this passage.

‘Zealous of good works’ means just what it sounds like. As we are God’s own unique personal possession there are certain things expected of us. Part and parcel with our uniqueness should be a zeal and a fire about good works.

Let me share why I was convicted about this. Wednesday afternoon a friend who is a part of our church whenever he is in the country on business called by the house. He told me that he wanted to go and pass out tracts in Dublin on Saturday. To my shame I didn’t have a supply on hand to do that. I was full of reasons why it could not be done, but he was convinced that it was what God wanted us to do, so I contacted our printer. Surprisingly he was able and willing to print up a few hundred Christmas tracts for us by Friday. I ordered them and let my friend know that they would be ready.

I was not going to be able to go because I had meeting scheduled for Saturday, so this was easy enough so far. I don’t like Dublin when it is crowded and handing our big numbers of tracts is not my favourite ministry thing to do.

To make a long story short my meeting was cancelled so I knew that I should go in and help pass out the tracts.

Yesterday morning I read this passage in my devotions. I was smitten because I knew then that I did not have a zeal to do this work. I was going, but only because my meeting was cancelled and my friend would have to go alone if I did not go. I was not going because I was zealous of goods works.

We went after that, my spirit and my attitude were better, and the Lord gave us a great time passing out the tracts. People were receptive and open to receive them for the most part.

I am grateful for this ‘zeal check’ and for a godly friend who encouraged me to do right even with my lack of zeal.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

His own peculiar people

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.. – Titus 2v14

I realise that the word ‘peculiar’ does not mean the same thing that it did in 1611. Today of course it means unusual, or something that is not quite right. When something is not quite right we might say, ‘That’s mighty peculiar,’ but in 1611 readers would have thought something else.

To the average reader in the early 17th century the word ‘peculiar’ meant a person’s special possession. This particular English word was taken from the Latin word ‘peculium.’ The word meant ‘private property’ but originally it meant one’s own cattle, which was the valuable of possessions. It seems that the Greek word here means the same as peculium.

I think the meaning is clear – we are the precious of God’s possessions. Nothing means more to Him than us.

So what does that say when I sin? Am I really acting like His most treasured possession, or am I acting more like I still belong to me.

The verses around this one tell us how his special private property is supposed to act. Do we really act like God’s peculiar people? Do people see that in us, or do they see us acting like we belong to someone else?

Friday, 5 December 2008

Grace has appeared

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, - Titus 2v11

Ah Christmas, I do love it. I don’t like the traffic, the shopping, and the hassle. I do like the family, the fun, the sentiment, and the buzz. I like the focus that it should give us.

At the core of it all is the truth in this passage – ‘the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.’ God chose to send grace through the gift of His some. The grace is there, God provided it for all. Because of Christ all may receive His grace.

But it doesn’t stop there. God’s grace doesn’t stop at salvation. After salvation that grace teaches us how to live. Some may think that grace means we can live any way we want. Paul responded to that in Romans 6 – ‘God forbid – may it never be!’ Grace appeared to save us, but it also appeared to teach us to deny ungodliness, to deny worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly lives in this present world.

The gift of grace saved us, but let us not forget that it also teaches us how to live today.

The question for each of us is, are we willing to listen to the teaching?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

A pattern of good works

and in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. – Titus 2v7-8 

Paul uses similar words of advice to Titus that he gave to Timothy. Paul is always clear that when we serve the Lord we are going to face opposition. No matter what, we are going to have opponents. 

I think it is amazing that the word of God deals with every day practicalities. How do we deal with our opponents? Simple enough take away all their ammunition. ‘Show yourself a pattern of good works….that one who is an opponent may be ashamed and have nothing to say.’ Specifically we are to set a pattern with our good works, set a pattern in doctrine, show integrity, be reverent, be incorruptible, and use sound speech that cannot be condemned. 

Each of these is worth our attention, but I know doe me that the last one is the one that can cause me problems. My mouth is what can get me into most trouble and give others cause to be critical. It is vitally important that my words do not give anyone a chance to condemn me. 

I may still have opponents, but I need to be sure that I give them nothing to use. At the end, whether they admit it or not, they will be ashamed of their attacks. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The older men

that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; - Titus 2v2

The older men – not that I am one or anything, but one day I probably will be. As I begin the enter the years of being one of the older men I am wise to pay particular attention to words of guidance.

When I read this I thought of grandfathers. As a granddad I go by ‘Grampy.’ One thing I don’t want to be is an old sourpuss who acts like a ‘grumpy Grampy.’ I also don’t want to be a pushover who spoils the grandchildren by giving them whatever they want. I need to be able to set an example of being solid, instructive, and at the same time loving and patient.

It is that last one that is the tough one. The older we get the harder it can be to be patient with the little ones. They are impetuous, investigative, curious, loud, and they require attention. But as Grampy I try to lovingly and patiently set an example and teach them.

The same holds true for a spiritual Grampy. Instead of being a grumpy Grampy who is always angry and upset, the older men must not waver in their example of being sober, reverent, and temperate. Their (our) faith must be solid. But as we practice those things we must be patient and loving with those who are young and growing.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

In works they deny Him

They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. – Titus 1v16 

We talk a lot, and rightfully so, about the fact that our works have nothing to do with our salvation. We are saved totally, absolutely, completely, and totally by the grace of God. Nothing can ever change that. 

It is important though to remember that we are not saved by our good works, but we are saved in order to do good works, because God ordained before the foundation of the world that his children would do good works. Those who are saved will show it by their works. 

Here Paul talks about some false professors. The evidence of their false profession is this – ‘they profess to know God, but their works deny Him. Then he goes on to use some pretty harsh words. 

No one expects us to be perfect. We are going to battle with sin and we are going to blow it at times. We all have to grow in Christ with the accompanying ‘growth pains.’ But when it is all said and done, our works must match up with our words. People must see the power of Christ working in me through my works. If not, then I am the ultimate hypocrite. My words say I follow Christ. Do my works deny Him? 

The next time we are tempted to sin, we must remember that in so doing we are denying the Saviour who hung on he cross for us. We say that we would never deny Him with our lips, but the more important daily truth is that we must nit deny Him with our walk. 

Monday, 1 December 2008

By sound doctrine

…holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. – Titus 1v9 

How do we answer our critics? We have all kinds of choices in how to respond. A common method is get real loud and brusque. Another way is to get angry and go on a personal attack. Another is to launch a tirade about the false teachings and how this kind of thinking leads to this and that and so and so. A favourite in my traditional circle of associates is to simply call the person a liberal and a compromiser. Usually this kind of debate leads to conflict, fighting, and a ‘never back down’ mentality. Nothing is solved, feelings are hurt, divisions are started, and the cause of Christ is damaged. 

So what do we do when we encounter those who contradict? There is only one proper response. We hold true to the word of God and use sound doctrine to answer. After all, no reasonable believer can argue with God’s word taught as sound doctrine. If a person still argues they are no longer arguing with us, but with God Himself. When that comes to pass we have done all we can do and then simply can leave it. 

Saying it loud enough and often enough does not make it true. That will not exhort or convict. Only God’s word has the power to do that. 

Sunday, 30 November 2008

God, who cannot lie

Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,  - Titus 1v1-2 

This is a simple little phrase, but what a great promise and great reminder. Its context alone is a blessing. Paul served God based on his hope of eternal life which God had planned before the foundation of the world. The great comfort of that is that the God who did all this cannot lie. His promise is true and valid. My eternal life is not based on my whim and fancy, but on the promises of a God who cannot lie. 

That whole truth about God is blessed and comforting. The very fact that God cannot lie means that every promise in His word is trustworthy. His promise of eternal life is true, and so is His promise that He will not forsake us, that He loves us, that He will take care of us, that we can cast all of our cares and concerns on Him, and that He will keep His promises and care for us. 

I don’t have to wonder if God will keep His promises. He will, because He cannot lie. His promise of eternal life is not conditioned on anything. Some of His promises are based on our trust, but they all are valid and unchangeable. 

God cannot lie. If He says it, it is true. All we have to do is accept it, believe it, and trust it. 

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Lord stood with me…and will deliver me

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! - 2 Timothy  4v17-18 

In spite of everything Paul’s faith did not waver. He saw the reality of the opposition, be could not play that down. He did not paint a rosy picture for Timothy, but as he had earlier told Timothy did not have a spirit of he had to remind him of the practicality of that truth. 

Paul knew how he got through the difficulties. ‘The Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached.’ He also knew what the future held even if he didn’t know what the future held. He knew that no matter what came his way, the Lord would deliver him preserve him for his heavenly reward. 

Our brothers and sisters in Christ have suffered through the years. We may very well be coming to a time when we will join them and our Saviour in suffering. If and when it happens we need to remember that the Lord has stood with us and given us strength through the years and He is not going to stop now. 

How did Paul respond to his pending doom? ‘To Him be glory forever and ever, amen!’ 

Oh for heart like Paul’s when facing struggles, trials, and persecution. 

Friday, 28 November 2008

May it not be charged against them

At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. - 2 Timothy 4v16 

This whole section makes me cry every time I read it. ‘Demas has forsaken me because he loved the world too much. He went to Thessalinica. Crescens went to Galatia. Titus went to Dalmatia. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. Only Luke has stayed with me. Bring John Mark when you come (the same John Mark that Paul once rejected). Bring my coat; bring the books and my parchments. Beware of Alexander the coppersmith, he did a lot of damage to the ministry. At my first trial no one stood by my side.’ 

You can sense Paul’s true heart here. He is the great missionary evangelist. He has been through it all. He has seen so many struggles and trials. But now he is feeling alone. His co-workers have gone on their own way, at least some for wrong reasons. Some have even opposed him and his ministry and done damage to them. My heart hurts when I see him standing all alone before Caesar’s court.


I can easily see myself in ‘pity party pit’ if I were Paul. I can also see myself angry and maybe even seeking revenge. I can see my feelings being hurt. I can see myself asking God why. 

Paul leaves it is God’s hands. For Alexander, who caused much damage, Paul just said – ‘may the Lord reward him according to his work. 

I love closing remarks about these men though. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ As Paul held the cloaks of the stoners he had heard Stephen say, ‘Lord, don’t lay this sin to their charge.’ Now Paul says something very similar – “may it not be charged against them.’ 

What kind of heart does it take to say this kind of thing? Abandoned, betrayed, and alone Paul could say – ‘don’t hold it against them.’ Paul, in quite possibly his last hours, was truly conformed to the image of Christ. 

What a heart. What an example. What a challenge. 

Thursday, 27 November 2008

I have kept the faith

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy 4v6-7

Paul’s closing words and testimonial are both challenging and convicting. In this section he describes his life as it nears its end with thee phrases”

I have fought the good fight
I have finished the race
I have kept the faith

I personally think Paul wrote Hebrews (if you disagree that is fine). One of the reasons, since I know almost no Greek, is the way the same things are discussed both in Hebrews and other letters. These words from 2 Timothy seem to be the other end of the words in Hebrews – ‘…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God...”

In Hebrews the race is yet to be run. In 2 Timothy it has been run. The race is over for Paul. He ran the race, he fought the fight, and all along the way he kept the faith. Paul has heeded the advice of Hebrews as he endured in the race.

Whenever I read these words I have to ask myself what I will be able to say about my own life when I come to the end of the race. I don’t even know sometimes if I can say, ‘I am fighting the good fight, I am running the race, and I am keeping the faith.’ If I can’t do it now, what will I say at the end?

Too often my flesh drags me off course, fear keeps me from fighting the fight, and only at the end will I know if I have faithfully held to the course.

By God’s grace alone may I be able to say one day:

I have fought a good fight
I have finished the race
I have kept the faith

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Be ready

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. - 2 Timothy 4v2

How powerful two little words can be. ‘Be ready,’ Paul writes. He then goes on to explain that we need always be ready – in season and out of season we need to be ready to convince, rebuke, and exhort and to do so with all longsuffering and teaching.

We don’t have time for a spiritual holiday where we can just kick back and take off our servant hat. Even in our leisure time we need to be ready to share God’s word.

Be ready always. Never let down your guard. No matter what is going on always be diligent.

We cannot afford to be lulled into lethargy, especially in these days.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Duct tape and baling wire

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3v16-17

There are some of us who think we can fix anything with three basic tools; a hammer, some baling wire, and some duct tape. It is amazing the patch up job you can do. The tales I could tell…

The thing is that those jobs do not work in the long run or really solve any problems. Not having the right tools can not only leave the situation unresolved, it can make things worse. It often requires more cleaning up and more repairs.

Sadly, if we don’t have the right tools spiritually we can try to patch things up using spiritual duct tape, baling wire, and a hammer. If we are not equipped with God’s word we are going make a mess of things.

God gave us the proper set of tools in our spiritual toolbox. The Holy Spirit breathed out His word. It alone is profitable to do the job right. Lets quit doing a patch up job and use the tools God has provided for us.

Monday, 24 November 2008

You must continue

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, - 2 Timothy 3v14

This is a tough sounding passage with things like, ‘evil men and seducers will increase,’ and, ‘all those who desire to live godly will suffer persecution.’ These are not very encouraging words for the servant of God. In response we are told that we are not to quarrel but to be gentle to all.’ One would think that the response to this kind of evil would be to grab a sword (or gun), stock up the provisions, and be ready to fight till they pry the gun from our cold hard fingers instead of ‘be gentle to all.’

What is God’s advice in the midst of all this seeming bad news in the previous verses? ‘You must continue on…’ Let me parrowphrase this if I might. ‘It is just going to get worse and worse Timothy, but you can’t respond in the flesh. Don’t argue, be gentle, and realise that persecution is going to happen if you want to live a godly life. So just keep on keeping on with what you are doing. Find your strength and assurance in the scriptures you have known since you were little. Stay at it Timothy, don’t give up.’

I need those words sometimes. ‘You must continue.’ That’s pretty straightforward isn’t it?

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Will suffer persecution

Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. - 2 Timothy 3v12

I must be honest; sometimes passages of scripture bring up more questions than answers for me. This is one of those – ‘All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.’ I look at this say, ‘I desire to live godly, but I don’t think I have ever really suffered persecution.’

When I think of persecution I think of Fox’s Book of Martyrs and that kind of thing. I think of open opposition. Maybe I need to consider a broader definition of what persecution is.

Any way – I think the key here is this. The world is getting worse and worse. We are supposed to be getting closer and closer to the Lord. We are going in two opposite direction and somewhere along the way there is going to be a problem. We are going to come in to conflict with each other.

The problem is that we often are shocked and surprised when things don’t go our way. We need to understand that this is the norm. The world should not be willing to accept us. One of two things is wrong if they do. Either our culture has been influenced by our views and therefore has some measure of right and wrong or we have things in us that make us accept them. In other words they are like us, or, we are like them.

But the Bible says that things are getting worse – if we continue to be accepted as they do, who are the ones too much like the other?

Saturday, 22 November 2008

In humility correcting

in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
- 2 Timothy 2v25-26

How do we handle opposition to God’s work? What do we do about people who are against what we are doing? It is going to happen. People are going to oppose our work, oppose us, or oppose how we do things. The natural result for most of us is to get angry, blow up, and lash out. We think that loudness and brashness makes us right and will get them sorted out.

God’s word has a different approach – ‘In humility correcting those who oppose. With the goal that God will grant them repentance. They will know the truth, come to their senses, and escape the devil’s snare. They are his captives and doing his will.’

We keep coming back to the same spirit expected of God’s servants. It is never the bully, tough guy, ready to fight at the drop of a hat attitude that is so often reflected in action. God’s attitude, as reflected in His word, is seen in these few verses. No quarrels, gentleness, and humility are God’s plans, even towards those in opposition, is God’s way. These traits are our greatest tools. We persuade those in error, not by threats and violence, but by a gentle and humble spirit. No one can argue with those things.

What happens when we try to correct with loud and harsh words? Loud and harsh words come back to us. The only answer is, the only godly answer, to opposition is gentleness and humility.

Perhaps it is time to think of a change of tactic in our battle as we earnestly contend for the faith.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Must not quarrel

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, - 2 Timothy 2v24

I was really hit by this today. It was so simple and so deeply profound. I don’t think I have ever seen this in this way before.

Here we have a requirement for servants of the Lord that is not often preached about. ‘The servant of the Lord must not quarrel…’

To be honest, this really flies in the face of so much that I have been taught and believed. The group I am associated with often prides themselves in being fighters. The great ‘heroes of the faith’ are the tough guys. Spirituality is far too often measured by toughness.

And yet, over and over again we find some hints that we might just have something wrong here. Here is one of those times – The servant of the Lord must not quarrel. Instead, he must be gentle to all.

Wow! I am really stuck, challenged, and convicted by that simple statement. No quarrel, but gentle.

I don’t know what to say here. I need to stop and mull this over.

Not quarrelsome, gentle, apt to teach, patient. There are some goals to set my eyes and heart on.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Flee…pursue…with those who call on the Lord

Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. - 2 Timothy 2v22

It is tough to stand alone, isn’t it? From these words it is obvious that times were not all that different for us than they were in Paul’s day.

‘Flee youthful lusts,’ Paul says. Get away just as fast as you can. Don’t linger, don’t look, don’t wonder, don’t contemplate – just put on your running shoes and get out of there. Run like a scared chicken. Don’t play games. Don’t try to prove you are worldly wise and up to date. Naiveté is a good word.

The problem is that we have to live in a world which constantly encourages youthful lusts. So what do we do? Not only do we run from it, but we also chase after righteousness, faith, love, and peace. We run from one thing to another.

But we don’t do it alone. We do it with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. It is a team event. We work together. We are unified in our pursuit of these things. If we had to do it alone we would always fail. There would be no success.

This is why a local assembly of the body of Christ is so important. We need help in our fleeing and we need help in our pursuing. As an author put it a few years ago, ‘We Really Do Need Each Other.’

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." - 2 Timothy 2v19

Now we come to our part of the great foundational truth sealed forever by God. ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.’

God know all those that are His and all those that are His and bear His name are to forever depart from iniquity. He makes no provision for error or excuses here. I don’t know how much clearer he could have made it. In spite of all that is going on. In spite of fear, uncertainty, and even pending death two things don’t change, and one of those two things is that God’s children depart from iniquity.

There is not really a whole lot to say about this is there? If we are His children sin cannot be a part of our lives, no matter what happens.

Serious stuff for us isn’t it? Our departing from iniquity is so important that God calls it a foundation truth sealed forever by Him. I ‘reckon we oughta’ consider that the next time sin rears its ugly head.

The Lord knows them that are His

Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." - 2 Timothy 2v19

In spite of all this stuff Paul talks about, there is a foundation that stands sure and it is sealed with two truths:

The Lord knows those who are His
Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity

There are certain unshakeables of the faith. These are the things we cling on to during time of raw faith. In passage one relates to God and one relates to us.

Lets first examine an unshakeable foundational, and sealed truth relating to God. “The Lord knows them that are His.” From the “You have searched me and you know me of’ the Psalms to ‘The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows them who trust in Him’ of the prophets we constantly are reminded of the God who knows us.

What is astounding about this is that He also loves us – He knows us and yet He still loves us. He knows all my weaknesses, faults, and frailties, and yet He still loves me.

My Lord knows me. He knows all about my failings. I can’t hide anything from me, and yet He still loves me.

On the other hand He knows everything I am going through. He knows my struggles, my temptations, and my hard times. He knows how bad the economy is, He knows all about political situations. He promises over and over that He is right there with me.

Unchangeable, foundational, and sealed. ‘The Lord knows them that are His.’

Monday, 17 November 2008

Unashamed worker

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. - 2 Timothy 2v15

We have all been there. We have all heard preachers who have gone to the pulpit with something they wanted to preach about and then found a ‘proof text’ to back it up. Most of us who preach have probably done it ourselves. It is unfortunate when we try to use God’s word to fit our agenda. Ultimately it is going to bring shame on us when a more diligent student points out the error.

Faithful diligent study and application of God’s word is hard work. It requires persistent and dedicated prayerful investigation. It is not something to be entered into lightly.

There are all kinds of descriptions for a faithful servant. Soldier, athlete, farmer, and now student are some examples. Isn’t it interesting that none of these allow for a life of leisure?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Striving with no profit

Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. - 2 Timothy 2v14

I like to talk about just about anything. I really enjoy talking politics and there have been several weeks where there has been plenty to talk about there. After this morning I am a little concerned that I need to control some of that talk.

Little is more volatile than politics when it comes to conversation. There are other topics that trigger other people though.

Paul has a simple warning here – don’t fight about things that are of no profit, it can ruin the lives of those who hear the words. We need to be very careful about our conversations, especially about those topics that don’t really mean anything.

It is the closing words that concern me – ‘to the ruin of the hearers.’ I wonder if my words have contributed to the ruin of those who have heard them.

Very convicting and challenging words today.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

The word of God is not chained!

for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. - 2 Timothy 2v9

Paul was in a bad fix. Whether the chains he speaks of were physical or figurative, he was in deep trouble. He was awaiting trial before Caesar. He knew that he could very well be facing execution. He had focused on himself he would have been in a real dilemma. ‘Oh my,’ he might have said, ‘I am going to die and no one is going to be here to carry on God’s work! What is the church going to do without me?’

However Paul’s perspective was different, he knew what was important. ‘I may be in chains – but God’s word is still free and unfettered!’ Nothing was going to chain the word of God, nit trials, persecution, or even his own death.

Sometimes Christians have an inflated view of self importance. We think that we are going to suffer so that means that somehow God’s work is going to be restricted or inhibited.

Our condition and our freedoms and liberties are not going to impact of the freedom of God’s word. God’s word will go forth. It is more important than banks collapsing or political leaders.

Even if we end up broke and in political chains God’s word will not be restricted or fettered.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Endure hardship

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. - 2 Timothy 2v3-4

Passage after passage in this little epistle reminds us that following Christ is not going to be easy. Paul knew what this was very likely his last correspondence with Timothy. He knew the end was coming. In many ways this was his farewell address. It was way past time to being painting a rosy picture of what was to come.

You must endure hardship as a good soldier. Though raised in a military family I never had the privilege of serving my country in a military capacity. I planned on it and trained for it, but God had other ideas. There were many times, even in training, where being a soldier was tough. I can only imagine the difficulties of being a real soldier in a time of warfare. Every moment your life is threatened. Your enemy is all around you. There really is no comfort zone. I think ‘endure’ is the perfect word here. It’s just something you have to do.

A true soldier must also be focused on his task. The greatest danger lies in getting distracted. If you can’t stay focused chances are you will not survive.

It is this picture that Paul paints of the Christian life. We are not on a great spiritual holiday with room service and a swimming pool. We are not going to get breakfast in bed. In fact, we are blessed when we get breakfast at all. The enemy is always out firing just above our heads. We have to watch our every move. The slightest distraction could spell destruction for us or our fellow soldiers.

The church in many places has been out of the battle so long that we have forgotten that we are in a real war. It is not just the little skirmishes that most of us face, but it is a real, full scale war. We are not soldiers safely at base camp or on R&R, but we are at the battle front. The war, in many ways appears to be intensifying. The enemy is advancing. He is carrying the battle to base camp.

Have we grown so lazy and out of shape that we are not fit for the battle now? Did we forget while we were on R&R that the battle still had to be fought? Have we become so soft that we don’t even know what hardness is?

These are questions that we all need to face up to. What kind of soldiers are we? Are we willing to put up with the hardship?

Thursday, 13 November 2008

I know whom I have believed

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. - 2 Timothy 1v12

Most church historians and Bible scholars agree that Paul wrote this letter to Timothy during his second imprisonment in Rome while awaiting trial. From internal evidence later in the letter he knew that he was probably approaching the end of his life.

Yet Paul had a confidence that is rare today. No matter what Paul faced in his suffering he knew a couple of things with and therefore was not ashamed at his suffering.

I know Whom I believed
I know He is able to keep me

Paul could not have confident about his surroundings. They were in a mess, but he had the faith and the ability and the willingness to overlook that to the One who was in control of him and His life. There he could place His absolute trust.

I know there are times in my life when I tend to forget that it is not about me and my circumstances. Situations change constantly – circumstances are fragile and fleeting.

We face challenging times. It looks like it is only going to get worse. We must not allow our faith to be shaken. Do we believe the One in Whom we have believed? Do we trust that He is able to keep it together for us? Are we truly persuaded that He is able?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A spirit of fear

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1v7

This day last week we awoke to the news that America had elected Barack Obama as her president. Too many American Christians, and those associated with them around the world, there could not have been worse news. After the news of the last few weeks about the world-wide financial collapse this lead to more fear and panic. The build up to the election has been all about fear. Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya and he is going to impose Sharia law on January 20th. He wants to rewrite the constitution. And so on and so on and so on. It made great preaching in American pulpits for weeks before the election.

The world economy is apparently in collapse. Barack Obama is about to become president. There is a lot to be afraid of, right? I even saw one comment on a Baptist discussion forum that read, ‘be afraid, be very afraid.’

How do we reconcile that to, ‘God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of sound mind?’ It seems like some believers, especially in America at the moment, have lost the plot. Where does that fear come from? How can so many of God’s children be so afraid of a new president? How can believers all over the world be so afraid of the world economy? Has fear replaced faith?

God doesn’t give us a fearful spirit. Instead He gives us a powerful spirit, and sound spirit, and a sound mind. It is up to us whether we go forth in fear, or go forth in power.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Stir up the gift

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. - 2 Timothy 1v6

Though we don’t do it very often I love good fire in the fireplace. We like a mixture of wood and turf for our fire. It gives a lovely ambiance to a cold dark winter’s night. If I don’t tend to the fire (because no one else will) it grows cold and eventually goes out.

The words that Paul uses to Timothy draw that image to mind. There are times in all of our lives and ministries where the embers grow cold. There is still there some warmth in there, but is we grow cold and the ashes over the world cover over that warmth.

So what do we do when the fire grows cold? Do we just sit back and let it go out? No, we do what Paul told Timothy to do. We ‘stir up’ that gift. We get up off our, uh seats, and stir that fire back up! We don’t let it go dead. We stir up the coals, blow on the embers, add some more kindling, and get the fire blazing again.

We can’t afford to let the fires go cold – stoke them, stir them, get them burning again. Get that blazing fire back!

Monday, 10 November 2008

To meet urgent needs

And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. – Titus 3v14

I am grateful for the training and instruction I received in my early days. It laid a strong and solid foundation that has blessed me greatly. I am glad for the rock solid foundation of the word of God and a love for people.

There is one area that was not big though, and an area that I still need to work on, simply because I don’t think about it. Paul reminds Titus to ‘let our people learn to maintain good works.’ I have to say I honestly strive to do that. I want my works to glorify God and point to the Saviour.

But there is another way to be fruitful – ‘meet urgent needs.’ I am afraid that too often I am not quick to meet these urgent needs. I just don’t make myself aware of them. It is an area that was not a big part of most of the churches I have attended. We left that to the liberal churches.

I know that my lack of training is no excuse though. The word of God is clear; we must be aware of and quick to meet these urgent needs. May I allow God to open my eyes to these ‘urgent needs’ and give me the wisdom to meet them.

Genuine Faith

when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. - 2 Timothy 1v5

Being a dad, and now a grampy, this passage is special. Paul commends Timothy for what he calls his ‘genuine faith,’ which was first practiced by his grandmother and also by his mother. This cross generational genuine faith is a blessing in a couple of ways.

First, Timothy’s faith was genuine – it was, in the words of the King James, unfeigned. I like that word – unfeigned. People feign an illness to get out of work. Feign implies deception and trickery. Feigned faith is true hypocrisy; it is saying one thing and even acting a certain way, while the reality is quite different. Sadly, there is far too much feigned faith in the church and amongst professed believers.

Timothy’s faith was pure, genuine, real, and unfeigned. What a blessed testimony.

Secondly was Timothy’s godly heritage. I love the fact that the importance of godly women is stressed here. Timothy saw the pattern for unfeigned faith from his mother and grandmother. I love this concept of genuine faith in grandchildren. Nanna Lois passed her faith on to her daughter Eunice and Eunice passed it on to her son Timothy. This is how real faith passes from generation to generation. The church has its role, of course. Teachers and pastors have their roles, of course. But the reality of faith passes from grandparents to parents to children and on and on and on.

My prayer is that my godly wife and I will pass our unfeigned faith on to our children and that they will pass it on to their children. I pray that one day we may speak of the unfeigned faith of Morgann, Maddie, AJ, and others that come along. There is no greater joy than hearing of our children walking in the truth.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Avoid babblings

O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen. - 1 Timothy 6v20-21

I have to say I am deeply convicted today. Paul told Timothy, in so many words, to guard that which was committed to him by the Lord and forget all the other nonsense.

One of my greatest flaws is my love of politics. I absolutely love it. I like it in every location and at every level. If I hear a political discussion going on I always find myself drifting in that direction. I like Irish politics and I like American politics and in both countries it has been an exciting political year.

Here I am reminded that there is one thing that I really must guard, and that is the gospel which has been committed to my trust. The other stuff, like the politics that I love so much, can become the ‘profane and foolish babblings’ that Paul addresses here.

I don’t think that means that we can never discuss the weather, sports, politics, or the economy. I think it means that when it goes beyond a casual friendly chat and becomes contentious have move into babblings.

Paul is specifically addressing false teaching here, but the point is valid that we need to guard the task we are giving, glorifying God and drawing men to Him.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Ready to give, willing to share

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, - 1 Timothy 6v17-18

Sometimes as we read the word of God we can almost get the impression that God is anti-wealth. The truth is that God is opposed not to wealth, but to the love of wealth. In the same chapter that says, ‘the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil,’ also tells those who do have money to deal with it. From that alone it is obvious that some Christians are going to be rich.

In fact, the vast majority of us are rich in comparison to others. I will never be what the world causes rich. I doubt that I will ever even own my own home, but I have far more than others. I have a nice place to live, more than enough food to eat, plenty of clothing, and on and on. I can afford an occasional holiday, I have all kinds of ‘stuff’ that I really don’t need. So in some ways, I would have to say that I am ‘rich.’

So what do we do with it? First of we are not to be haughty about our money. For someone like me that is not a big deal, though I am not broke, I certainly don’t have enough to brag about. Secondly, we are to put our faith in God, and not our bank accounts. That’s a little more challenging. Unless we are flat broke we do have a tendency to trust in what we do have. Instead, our faith should be in God who ‘gives us richly all things to enjoy.’

Finally, God tells us what to do with what we have in relation to others. ‘Be rich in good works, be ready to give and willing to share.’ Those two little phrases really summarise the Christian’s view of wealth. ‘Be ready to give and willing to share.’ We can so caught up in ourselves that it is easy to forget about others.

Our stuff is not our stuff at all; it is all God’s stuff. As God’s stuff we cannot treat it foolishly and wastefully, but we also cannot selfishly hold on to it. Sharing is what it is all about!

Sharing – that’s what Christians do.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Fight the fight

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. - 1 Timothy 6v12

There is a lot of talk, especially amongst American Christians today, about the results of this week’s election. I was going to just ignore it, but I think today’s passage is relevant.

I do not swallow the line that the election of Senator Obama means the end to freedom as we know it. I don’t think it sounds America’s death knell. I suspect that the natural secularisation of society will continue on as it has, slowly but surely growing more and more opposed to God’s people. I fear that the slowness will allow Christian in America to continue on in Laodiceanism.

But let’s say the doom and gloomers are right. Let’s say that the next four years bring oppression and opposition on an official level. Let’s say that widespread persecution of true believers does come to America.

Then what? Would it really be a bad thing? Might we finally be forced to ‘fight the good fight of faith?’

I realise that there are two aspects to this fight of faith. On is internal, my daily battle with my flesh. But the other is external. All through history our brothers and sisters in Christ have had to stand and fight for their faith. It is our calling; it is our opportunity to make our confession before others. It may be what is required for the world to see the difference between us and them.

If this battle does come, are we willing to lay aside of the temporal nonsense that consumes us and lay hold of our eternal life instead. We will be able to have a good confession before many witnesses?

Are we even ready for the fight?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

In their greediness

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. - 1 Timothy 6v10

This must be an area that I need to deal with. It just keeps popping up in my devotions.

Jesus told us back in the gospels that we can’t serve God and money. It is impossible, it simple can’t be done. Through the rest of the New Testament we are reminded of the same truth. The quickest way to destroy a walk of faith is to continue to have a love for money.

Greediness can often be the cause of straying from a walk of faith. I think it is interesting that Paul uses the word. ‘strayed’ here. It doesn’t look like it is a headlong rush or a momentary decision. It appears that it is a gradual drifting away instead. We start out all dedicated to service and walking by faith, but the allure of stuff excites our greediness and we gradually drift away.

Sadly, at the end of the day, the result will not be what we hoped for. Paul says that those who have strayed away from their walk of faith because of greediness have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Loving money and the stuff it buys will bring many temporal pleasures, but will it be worth it all when we see what we might have done by walking in faith?

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Nothing in – nothing out

…useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. - 1 Timothy 6v5-7

There were some in Paul’s day indeed there are some today, who actually try to believe that godliness is a way of personal gain. They measure godliness by material and financial benefits. They say that blessings in the way of stuff are proof that God is blessing.

Paul turns that on its heels. ‘Godliness with contentment is the true great gain. After all when you were born you had nothing and when you die you can’t take anything with you.’

The problem is that many Christians are so focused on the here and now that they want all they can get while they are here. They don’t really care if they can’t take it with them as long as they have it now.

The problem with that is that too often our service is not motivated my true godliness, but by the ‘stuff’ we want. We act because we are not content. The great gain is the ability to have true godliness with contentment. They can’t go hand is hand, because if we are not content, then we really are not trusting the God who gave us what we have.

They cannot be hidden

Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.
- 1 Timothy 5v25

Just a little blessing, comfort, and encouragement this morning. I don’t think I have ever noticed this verse before. But I found a blessing there this morning.

It is clear that some people’s good works are obvious. Every one sees them. They are in forefront and highly visible. If we are not careful we can wish that our works had had the same high visibility. Why? Simply because we all like to be recognised.

But in the same verse we read that those whose works are not clearly seen can be comforted in the fact that their works also cannot be hidden. Those who are hidden away some place, simply plugging away and being faithful can be assured that their work is not in vain. The work cannot be hidden forever. One day it will be seen.

Getting credit for our service should never me our motivation, but it is nice to know that someday some one will know about it.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Without prejudice, no partiality

I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. - 1 Timothy 5v21

I recently saw, for the umpteenth time, the Andy Griffith episode (The Andy Griffith Show is an American comedy from the 60s set in a small North Carolina town called Mayberry. The story line focuses around the small time sheriff, Andy, and his loveable, but often inept deputy, Barney) where Barney arrests the entire town while Andy is gone for the day. When Andy gets back Barney has both cells completely filled with his victims, packed like, as Andy puts it, sardines.

As the victims are paraded before Andy for sentencing we see that all the arrests are dubious at best. Barney has even arrested Andy’s Aunt Bea and his son Opie. One of the next victims is the town mayor, who was arrested for vagrancy.

When questioned about the arrests of Aunt Bea and the mayor, they commented about how Barney spouted things like, ‘no partiality or favouritism.’ At the end of the episode, after they had a change of heart from making Barney the butt of their jokes, the town put themselves back in jail. The mayor makes a speech about how lucky they are to have a deputy who does his duty without partiality.

A funny episode, and in another one Barney gives the governor’s car a ticket for parking illegally. It makes for great humour, but in some ways Barney had it right. It didn’t matter to him who it was, if a law was broken, they had to pay the price.

Paul addresses that issue here. Though he was writing to a young pastor, the truth is still truth in dealing with people. We all have family and friends and people we tend to like more than others, even in the body of Christ and even in our local assemblies. When conflicts or issues arise we are tempted to side with either the first side of the story we hear, or the party who we ‘like’ the best.

Paul makes it clear, do the things you are called to do without any prejudice and without any partiality. We can’t let our bias affect how we deal with things. It makes no difference if it my best friend or the brother I have to choose to love, we apply the word of God as our measuring rod.

It is tempting to ‘go after’ those we disagree with and protect those on ‘our side.’ When we allow this kind of thinking to creep in we are fleshly, proud, ungodly, and wicked. In our dealings, we must deal from God’s perspective. He shows partiality to no one, and we don’t follow His example.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The labourer is worthy

For the Scripture says, "You shall not muzzle and ox while it treads out the grain," and, "The labourer is worthy of its wages." - 1 Timothy 5v18

When we have a leaky pipe we have no problem paying someone to come out and fix it. If we need wiring done or car repairs we may gripe, but we know we have to pay to get it sorted. When we go out to eat we pay the extra to have someone set the table, prepare and serve our meal, and clean up the mess. We are all accustomed to paying for services rendered.

There is an area of service provided that we sometimes forget about, at least on an individual level. When an elder who ministers in doctrine and the word does so, we need to remember that he too is worthy of his hire. Sometimes, when a special speaker ministers, or even when a pastor has a need, we can forget the work he puts forth. We think, well, ‘he has his salary, that ought to sort him.’

But there is something more to it than that. I am not sure what the phrase ‘double honour’ means in verse 17, but there is something about making sure that a preaching or teaching elder is properly taken care of. While he need not be wealthy or have an abundance, he is going to have a hard time ministering with financial troubles hanging over our heads.

Let’s be sure, as churches and individuals, that we remember that this labourer is worthy of his hire.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Worse than an unbeliever

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
- 1 Timothy 5v8

If a person did not know this passage and we asked them, ’What kind of person can be described as denying his faith and being worse than an unbeliever?’ what kind of responses would we get?

Someone who commits murder?
Someone who commits suicide?
Someone who cheats on his wife?

Possible so, but the specific words are applied to a specific situation that may not be the first one to come to mind. The man who is described as one who denies his faith and is worse than an unbeliever is the man who does not take care of those who depend on him.

Pretty severe words, but there they are. Paul uses the illustration of caring for a needy widow to move to a more general statement. People depend on us in many ways. This applies to much more than meeting monetary needs. If we are not meeting all the needs of those who depend on us, especially our own family, we are telling people that our faith is not real. We are acting worse than a lost man. We destroy our testimony before the world.

How important is caring for our own? So important that not doing it earns us some of the strongest invectives in Scripture.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Don’t rebuke an older man

Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, - 1 Timothy 5v1

We find a lot in the word of God about older people, and virtually every instance that I know of it mentions wisdom, respect, and honour. Here Paul addresses Timothy on how to deal with people of different age groups in the church. He starts out with the older men.

Don’t rebuke an older man. That seems simple enough doesn’t it? Does that mean that older men can just do whatever they want and never be questioned or called up, even when they sin? No, of course not, but Paul addresses that as well. Instead of rebuking an older man, exhort him as you would a father.

The difference here is one of attitude. We rebuke with one spirit and we exhort with another. Older people earn our respect because of their age. We cannot let an older person simply walk in sin, but when we confront them we should do it with same spirit that a father is due, and that is always with respect and honour.

We need to be careful in our fervency to deal with sin, that we don’t miss the method of dealing with it, and older people deserve our respect.

Thursday, 30 October 2008


Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. - 1 Timothy 4v16

I am so glad for the constant reminders in the word of God to stay at the task. It is no accident that a recurring theme in Paul’s letters to churches and to people is to just continue on. Why? Well, I think it is obvious. At times we are all tempted to quit.

Paul’s reminders here are simply brilliant in their simplicity. Keep a grip on yourself and the doctrine you hold. Don’t let them slip. Keep at it. Stay at the stuff. Because at the end of the day your will grow in your sanctification and draw others to salvation by dong so.

When I read passages I like this I am reminded of William Carey. He is one of my true heroes (if I believed in heroes). He was pure and simply a plodder. Year after year went by and he saw ‘nothing’ happening. He had doubts and fears about his calling. He had opposition on the field and back ‘home.’ He had physical and family struggles, but he just could not bring himself to quit. He just continued on keeping his life right and staying true to the scriptures. Eventually, after many years, he was able to see the results of just staying at it.

May have a, if I may coin a neologism, carian heart of service.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Give yourself wholly

Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. - 1 Timothy 4v15

Today’s verse is a follow on to the yesterday. Yesterday we were reminded of the importance of giving ourselves to reading, exhortation, and doctrine. All through this section Paul is talking about the importance of diligence in serve with phrases like ‘stir up the gift,’ and ‘don’t neglect the gift.’

Here is tells Timothy how to do all of this – mediate on these things and throw yourself into them. Give yourself wholly, give yourself entirely, there is no room for half-heartedness.

I know some avid sports fans. These guys go crazy for their team. They have all the clothing, accessories, knick knacks, toys and gadgets to go with their team. Their emotions wise and fall with how their team plays. They throw themselves headlong into supporting their team.

Others throw themselves into their work. They seem almost workaholic at times ans everything in their lives goes into work.

Athletes can do the same, becoming obsessed with the next big game, match, or event, All that matters is succeeding in their sport.

This is the kind of intensity Paul encourages Timothy to have in his walk with the Lord. Give yourself fully Timothy, throw yourself into the ministry. Stay at the stuff, give it your all, don’t back off, and keep the fires burning.

I am challenged by this. Too often my ministry is just what I do. May I learn to throw myself into with the kind of fervour and intensity God desires.