June 25: God

Read Genesis 1:1-31

If you were to travel as far back into time as you could possibly travel, you would eventually reach the “the beginning.” But time itself is a created thing (Hebrews 1:1, 2). It was set into motion by the Creator. Even though what I am about to ask defies logic, take another step back to a point before time or any created thing existed. It’s true, we lack the chronological and spacial terms to describe this time or location, still God existed then and there. “In the beginning, God . . .” He always was . . . and always will be. He always has and always will be one God (Deut. 6:4).

Let’s push our minds a bit further to consider another illogical but accurate reality. This one God is three persons. The three are visible even in this opening page of Scripture. The Father responsible for Creation did so through Jesus the Son (Jn. 1:1-3). He is the creative Word through which nothing became something and the One through whom dust became a human being. And as for the Spirit of God? He was “hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2) already on Day 1 of creation. This three-in-one God was not only visible in Creation, but also at the baptism of Jesus (Matt. 3:16, 17). His three-in-one work is remembered every time a believer in Christ is baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

This eternal God created . . . heavens and earth . . . seas and dry land . . . sun, moon, and stars . . . plants, flowers, and trees . . . fish and sea creatures . . . lions and tigers and bears (Oh my!). But as His crème de la crème, His pièce de résistance, He created men and women. Mankind was to be different . . . different from all the other created entities and beings. You see, humans were to bear the very image of their Creator. They were to be relational; to one another and to Him. They were to exercise dominion in a microcosmic way reflective of His ultimate dominion over all things. They were to reflect His priorities in this earth. They were to mirror His holiness.

This holy, eternal, three in one, personal God has big plans for you!

sbk

Posted in Uncategorized

June 24: Remain Focused

Read 2 Timothy 4:9-22

Paul was lonely. I imagine prison inside a dungeon will do that to a man. Oh, and also, his friends had abandoned him.

“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me” (v16).

Nobody showed up for his trial. No one stood with him in front of his accusers. Only God.

“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength . . .” (v17).

Indeed, Paul knew the deep sides of loneliness. Still, he wrote to Timothy about his concern for those who had left him. Even from the depths of his despair-shaped dungeon, Paul prayed God’s mercy on them.

“May it not be held against them” (v16).

You see, Paul understood weakness. He was a man himself. He knew the propensity to curl up in a ball and look only for one’s self-protection. So he didn’t blame those who had left him alone. In fact, he forgave them.

I have to wonder if he himself dealt with that temptation to only look to his own interests. I imagine he did, especially after so many of his close friends deserted him. Especially as he lay on that cold dungeon floor. He could have easily given in to that I-will-think-only-about-myself temptation and left Timothy, and us, feeling nothing but bad for him and his situation.

But instead, Paul gave his spiritual son some instructions. He offered some laser-focused faith to sum up his letter on standing strong. Paul demonstrated focus on the only one whose Word is always true by practicing that focus himself. Even from the dungeon.

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (v18).

Paul knew the hope of the One who would never, ever, leave him alone. And he knew that His presence, His strength, was absolutely enough to get him through this end-of-life, deep-in-the-dungeon-dark time.

So he praised God anyway.

“To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (v18).

I wonder how we might take such an act of faith-focus to heart. How might we remain steadily standing, strong and firm, in the hope we know by the Word of God?

These letters to Timothy are letters to us as well. May we live accordingly. Biblically-grounded. Christ-centered. Able to resist false teaching and false hope. May you and I always stay focused on the real hope and spread the Word, just as Timothy was called to do.

brw

Posted in 2 Timothy

June 23: Preach the Word

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-8

Paul was about to wrap up his thoughts for Timothy. He was about to wrap up his life, actually. So he wanted to make sure to emphasize the important stuff.

Preach the Word!

It was as if he were telling him, it’s gonna’ get hard. But remember the Word of God is central. Preach only the Word of God.

Even when the ones to whom you preach convince their friends you’re wrong. Convince them their way is better. That their doctrine is the right one. Especially then. Preach the Word. Even when they don’t want to hear it, and they like the lies better.

This is how you will bring others to the truth. God has called you, Timothy, to His work. He will use your ministry for His own glory, so don’t neglect any of it. Don’t forget those who do not yet know about Jesus and the real life He offers. Don’t get sucked in by the distractions and the lies. Fight the good fight.

Yes, I imagine Paul penning these words even as memories flowed. Like when he was beaten. The first time he was imprisoned. The road where Jesus met him. Peter, Cornelius. The churches full of brothers and sisters he had loved so much and given so much for. Timothy his son, the ministry in which Paul helped him begin.

I imagine Timothy reading the words from his spiritual father, eyes welling. Tears building. Emotion filling his very gut.

“I have finished the race” (v7).

I imagine the joy inside those tears as Timothy read further, to the part where Paul unwaveringly stated what he knew he would find on the other side of this life he was just about done with.

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness . . .” (v8).

Timothy knew that crown awaited him as well. And that’s how he could continue. That’s how he could remember the truth and remain in the Word. It’s how he could persevere the laser-focus task of spreading the truth even through the lies. It was the very hope on which Timothy himself stood. The hope for which he also fought. The hope that he would continue to preach. The Word of God.

The Word of God is the center of any ministry. Paul’s. Timothy’s. Pastor Nick’s. Clayton King’s. Beth Moore’s. Let us not forget. Preach the Word.

brw

Posted in 2 Timothy

June 22: The Word God Breathed

Read 2 Timothy 3:10-17

Paul sent a letter to his spiritual son, Timothy. He encouraged him in his growing faith and reminded Timothy of the example he had set for him. He instructed him in his leadership of the church at Ephesus. He wrote words of encouragement. Words like this: “(E)veryone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted  . . . “(v12).

I don’t know about you, but that’s not my idea of an encouraging note. I want words that make me feel good. When I need encouragement, I want words that show me hope beyond the hard situation. And, quite frankly, these words just don’t seem to cut it.

If we look deep, however, we can find a different kind of hope. It’s the real kind. We can discover true encouragement in Paul’s words — the kind that gives courage to Timothy and to us, as well.

We see the hope when we read of God’s faithful rescue of Paul in his persecution. We find it in the reminder of all that we ourselves have been given in the very Word that God breathed. Timothy had all he needed to withstand the persecution. We do, too.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful . . . so that (you) may be thoroughly equipped . . .” v16)

This God-breathed Scripture had become part of Timothy’s DNA. He had learned it from infancy. Taken in “the sacred Scriptures with (his) mother’s milk” (v15, The Message). His mom and grandma had made sure of that. So he knew how the Word of God read. He knew its truth. And it had made him “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus “(v 15).

It has done the same for us.

The Word of God is just as useful today as it was the day Paul wrote to Timothy about it. It’s useful for the godly living you and I are called to. It’s useful for the faith-strengthening we need as we face inevitable persecution.

Paul had faced all kinds of it. He had suffered for all kinds of godly living, too. And he knew firsthand the freedom that came with God’s rescue, God’s faithful hand of rescue.

Yes, persecution will come, he told Timothy. But remember the truth as you stand through the storm of deceitful opposition, proud arrogance, fake godliness. Remember the Word you know. And stand strong with Almighty God. Therein lies the hope. Even now.

brw

Posted in 2 Timothy

June 21: Don’t Be Deceived

Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9 and Exodus 7:8-13

Opposition of the truth was nothing new. It had been around since, well, nearly since the beginning. We see it in the Old Testament, and we see it here, in Paul’s letter to Timothy. People will oppose the news of Jesus head-on.

Though it shows up in a different form, we find the same story in Exodus 7, back when the Israelites played servants to the Egyptians and God sent Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh with the truth. God had in mind to liberate them from their slavery. So He showed His power by turning Aaron’s rod into a snake.

Pharaoh called up his magician / wizard friends, though, and ordered them to do the same. So they did. And Pharaoh, whose heart was not open to the things of God, not willing to see the real truth, was deceived into disbelieving the true power of God. Tradition tells us some of these magicians were named Jannes and Jombres.

I guess I might have been deceived, too, if I’d seen their staffs turn into snakes and slither around Pharaoh’s throne. Deceived, that is, until I saw the real truth literally eat up its opposition. Because, well, it would have shown their folly for what it was. Just like Paul told Timothy.

Yes, those who oppose the truth can be deceptive and difficult to spot. That’s why Paul wrote to Timothy about it. Steer clear.

“Have nothing to do with them” (v 5).

Those who oppose the truth will one day be shown for the fakes they are. God’s truth will always prevail. Always. In the end, the real truth about Jesus Christ and real life will shine for all to see. And the folly of the truth-opposers will be made evident to all.

Today, these truth-opposers don’t usually look like magicians, but they deceive just the same. People act godly yet deny the power of God through Jesus Christ. Pride and selfishness become the teacher. Sometimes it even seems genuine. And sometimes steering clear makes us wonder if we are the ones without the godliness. Deception at its finest.

Rest assured, though, their folly will show itself for what it is. Just like it did when Jannes and Jombres got caught empty-handed, unable to produce gnats or fester boils on skin. (See Exodus 8 and 9.)

Paul’s warning to Timothy is for us as well. Keep away from those who oppose the truth. Don’t let it infiltrate the Church. Don’t let it deceive you. Know whom you believe and stand strong in the truth of Jesus Christ.

brw

Posted in 2 Timothy

June 20: The Power of the Word

Read 2 Timothy 2:14-26

It’s scary sometimes — using words to represent Jesus. Using words to exemplify The Word Himself.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (v15).

It’s a privilege, indeed. But it could get scary if I lose sight of the purpose for my words. If I let up on the focus of Him whose words created life. Calmed storms. Made me His. Because those words, His Word, Jesus Christ, stand firm no matter what. As long as my words point to His, I have nothing to fear.

Some will malign the truth with their words. They will distract us from what is real, from the one God who stands firm. They are the ignobly purposed articles in the house. The ones who speak falsely. They don’t look to God for His truth, but speak only what they think and for their own purposes and their own fame.

Avoid them.

Words are powerful tools. They can serve the one real Commander or they can denigrate His truth. Words spoken in anger. Quarrels. Arrogant words. Pride-filled talk.

Yes, words are powerful tools.

But the Word, God Himself, is most powerful. That’s why Paul reminded Timothy to stay true to the Word.

If we are not careful, we will find ourselves among the ranks of those ignoble home articles. The ones that only serve to clutter up the house.

That’s why Paul wrote these words to his spiritually grown son. It’s why he told him to call on the Lord with a pure heart. To avoid stupid arguments. He wanted Timothy to remain focused on the task at hand. To lead people to the one true Word. To instruct his fellow believers in presenting themselves as good soldiers, approved by the commander Himself.

It applies to us today, too. Our words, whether reckless or intentional, matter. But the good soldier of Christ is careful to use them only as God would intend. She is careful to avoid useless, denigrating quarrels and arguments and complaining and falsehoods.

The good soldier of Christ remembers that the words he uses represent the Word Himself.

How will you use your words today?

brw

Posted in 2 Timothy

June 19: The Strength to Stand

Read 2 Timothy 2:1-13

He’d been abandoned by many, and in a dark hour. There was one, though, Onesiphorus, who brought the light of encouragement into Paul’s dark dungeon where he lay chained up, persecuted for the truth of Jesus Christ.

Yes, abandoned and chained and near death, the Apostle Paul had good reason to give up his good fight. Yet here in these verses, we read his own words of encouragement. He wrote to Timothy to encourage him, his mentee.

“Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (v1).

The only true strength, Paul knew, was the kind he himself had found in Christ Jesus. The only real power was the kind that had him sending letters of encouragement from the middle of a prison. The grace of Christ Jesus was Paul’s only way to remain faithful to his mission — spreading the news that God had come. The truth that trusting Jesus was the only way to really live, even inside a dark dungeon prison.

Paul knew that this grace of Christ Jesus was also the power of God at work in His Church. The spreading of His gospel through faithful and reliable men, like Timothy and Onesiphorus, to other faithfuls and reliables. He knew they must stand strong in that grace or they would not stand at all. They, too, would be counted among the ranks of those who had abandoned him if they did not choose to stand strong in God’s grace.

It was no easy calling for Timothy, especially when his spiritual father lay chained and imprisoned in a dungeon, ready to die.

So when Timothy read Paul’s encouragement to “endure hardship,” he probably needed reminding of who Christ had made him. “A good soldier . . . who wants to please his commanding officer” (vv 3-4). The strength to stand came from the grace of Christ Jesus Himself.

The focus was difficult for Timothy, no doubt. It’s difficult for us sometimes, too. Although we don’t face an emperor’s crazy tyranny, we face opposition regularly if we are fighting for the truth of Jesus Christ.

A friend slanders the way we choose to live above reproach. A co-worker bitterly taunts a lunchtime Bible study we’ve started. But if we stand strong in the grace of Jesus Christ, if we aim to please only Him, we will accomplish God’s purpose. And we too will fill well the boots of a soldier in the army of God.

brw

Posted in 2 Timothy