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.