August 11 – 5 – Sower

Read Matthew 13:1-23 and 2 Timothy 2:23-26

Sandwiched between a zealous-spiritual-retreat-attender named, Augusta, and a forced-to-retire-too-young Marine named, Michael, I was in for a memorable flight. As we dove deep into conversation, it seemed ‘Gussy’ was more devoted to her retreat leader and his ‘hole up and prepare for the end of the world’ message than she was to Jesus. Michael looked the picture of health on the outside but was all pins and screws on the inside. Under enemy fire, he had suffered traumatic injuries and the loss of several comrades. This led to more pain in the loss of his marriage, full-time fatherhood, the ability to sleep, and any hope for inner peace.

As we chatted I began to share my hope in Jesus and Michael and Gussy began to form an alliance of attack. My words were met with laughter and condescension. They called me a ‘parrot’ that didn’t really understand what I was saying…that I didn’t know the first thing about Got. That the Bible was flawed and couldn’t be trusted. As the pride of proving myself welled up in me the Spirit popped it with some sharp truth:

“Have nothing to do with foolish arguments. The Lord’s servant must be kind. Shelly, they’re not listening to you anyway.”

So, I listened to them…for four hours. I only spoke during the few gaps of silence uttering, “Jesus, can we just get back to Jesus?”

We never did.

In the respite of my silent car on the drive home I had the strength similar to someone who had just climbed a mountain. Or maybe scaled some really rocky soil.

But, by God’s grace, I have a different soil story about a different Michael. He grew up across the road from our home and was raised on religious rules. I started hauling this kid around with my kids around age 10. He was in my house daily becoming like family. There were many times I’d talk to Michael about a relationship with Jesus. His lack of response made me walk away wondering if I was too preachy or if I Bible thumped the poor kid. But one day when he was seventeen he showed up at my kitchen door and told me he was ready. This precious young man was ready to surrender his life to Jesus. My feet floated across the grass as we made our way to the garage so my husband, Keith, could be in on this momentous occasion.

Talk about some good soil. Spirit fertilized, plowed, and ready.

I still wonder about Gussy and Michael, the Marine. I wonder if some tiny nugget of truth took root in their hearts that day. It was a rough exchange. But I’m still glad I sowed. I don’t have to wonder about my other Michael as he is faithfully following Jesus today.

Who is the Spirit prompting you to listen to or talk to today? We just never know, so let’s continue to sow!

Shelly Eberly

May 18 – What Does the Bible Say About Itself?

Read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Hebrews 4:12

“The most influential book of all time.”

“No other book like it.”

I’ve made those statements about the Bible.  But what does the Bible say about itself?  I would answer that in several ways. First …

  1. The Bible is an awesome book. The word “awesome” is used and abused today. I’ve even heard some use the word “awesome-est,” as if something can be more than awesome. Experiences and people are described as awesome when they are anything but that.

But the Bible is truly an awesome book because it is “inspired” by God (2 Timothy 3:16). That doesn’t mean “inspiring” like a gorgeous sunset. Rather it is the product of God Himself!

The word “inspired” means “God – breathed” or “exhaled” from God. No wonder it’s called the Word of God. The Bible is the product of God directing human authors to write exactly what He wanted to have written (2 Peter 1:20-21). I don’t fully understand how that supernatural process worked, but it can be described as nothing less than “awesome.”

And beyond all of that, the Bible is not a collection of principles, platitudes, or lessons. It is a thrilling story of God’s redemptive plan for mankind. From beginning to end, the plot of Scripture spotlights Jesus Christ, God’s Only Son, the Redeemer of Mankind.  Jesus said: “…These are the very Scriptures that testify about me” (Matthew 5:39-40).

Furthermore,

2. The Bible is an accurate book. Because God‘s character is true, His Word is trustworthy, completely reliable. Some suggest that the Bible is accurate when it speaks about theology but not accurate when it speaks about history or science. But if the Bible is not fully reliable at every point, how can we be sure it’s reliable at any point? Every word of God is described as “flawless” (Psalm 12:6), “eternal” (Psalm 119:89) and “perfect” (Psalm 119:96). If it is not accurate, it is worthless.

3. The Bible is also an authoritative book. The Bible is the Owner’s Manual for effective operation in this world by every human being. This means that every opinion, statement and belief should be tested by the question: “What does the Bible say about this?”

In fact, God expects us to obey what He said in His Word. Obedience is not optional. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

4. The Bible is an adequate book.

The Apostle Peter said that God has given us “everything we need for a godly life through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). The Scriptures have been given so that we might be “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). Someone said, “While the Bible may not tell us everything we want to know, it does tell us everything we need to know. Its truth isn’t exhaustive, but it is enough.”

Think of this! One book, penned by 40 different human authors on three different continents in three different languages over a period of more than 1500 years, provides exactly what we need for this life and all eternity.

It is an endless supply of riches!  

No book will ever claim more of your life than this book. And no book will ever give you more of life than this book.  Why not treat God’s word with the respect it deserves and allow it to have its rightful place of preeminence in your life?

Bob Fetterhoff

April 24 – Be Ready – Be Ready to Proclaim Truth

Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5

The book of 2 Timothy is the final letter the Apostle Paul is known to have written while in prison for preaching the Gospel and written just prior to his execution for his faith in Jesus.  Paul is writing to Timothy, who is his son in the faith -someone in whom he has discipled and invested.  The letter to Timothy is a bold charge to persevere for the Gospel despite suffering (which is mentioned in every chapter of this letter: 1:8, 1:12, 2:3, 2:9, 3:11, 4:5).  And what Paul was telling Timothy about 2,000 years ago applies to all who claim to follow Jesus Christ today as well. 

Paul tells Timothy in verse 2 that, at the end of the day, we are going to be held accountable before God and give an account of what we have done.  Do we believe what we claim?   It is of eternal importance to preach the Word and to proclaim the Gospel.  Paul says we should be ready in season and out of season.  We are to be so saturated by the Word of God in our lives that, when an opportunity presents itself for us to proclaim the Gospel, to share the truth, to share the reason for our hope, we are ready!

Paul also says to “rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching”.  This may sound intimidating to some.  The Greek for rebuke is epitimao meaning to warn or correct.  Pastor Voddie Baucham Jr says, “I don’t write the mail, I just deliver it”.  We are to share with complete passion and patience.  If someone does not understand it, explain it to them. 

Teach them and don’t give up on them.

In verse 5 we read “but as for you, exercise self-control in everything”.  The Word of God should be so in our blood stream that it floods out the word to men.  This way, when we face any situation, we can ask ourselves, “What does Christ want of me?”  I have heard it said before that you may be the only Bible a person reads.  People are watching your actions.  People are watching how you respond to all sorts of things.  People are watching the things you post on social media.  People are watching how you are handling the current events. 

Do you handle it in a way that lines up with the Word of God?

As the apostle Paul writes this from a Roman jail cell, he also tells Timothy that he will endure hardship.  Think of the faith witness and testimony of Paul, the Apostles and the early church.  Many of them faced persecution and hardships.  Faithfulness to God will typically come with some sort of suffering. 

Putting your faith in Jesus will cost you something. 

We are reminded to do the work of an evangelist, to proclaim and share the Good News.  By doing these things we are fulfilling our ministry.  Every Christian is in ministry.  We all have a gift and a calling.  And this final charge that Paul wrote to Timothy also applies to each of us who follow Jesus today.

Starting today, pray for opportunities to share the hope that you have with others! Is there anyone in your sphere of influence that you can share such hope with now?

Are you ready?

Nate Mills

April 20 – Be Ready – Ready to Do Good!

Read 2 Timothy 2:15-22

Be ready…be “prepared for every good work.”

When you read that statement, you likely begin to think in terms of having your eyes open for opportunity to serve people. To be sure, that is an important aspect of blessing others. In fact, one of the defining characteristics of a Christ follower is the fact that he/she does good works (Matt. 5:14-16; Eph. 2:8-10).

Still, the thrust of this passage is less on having open eyes and more on having a clean heart. You probably noted how Paul is like a pendulum in his writing, swinging between a call to correct understanding of God’s word and its antithesis…false teaching. I am sure you saw how he contrasted ungodliness, iniquity, and youthful lusts on the one hand and righteousness, faith, and love on the other. Paul is concerned about what we believe and how we live…about faithful theology and God-honoring theopraxis. (The word theopraxis combines two Greek words: theos meaning God and praxis meaning practice.)

And with regard to the theopraxis, if we really want to be prepared for good works, we must experience cleansing.

The apostle’s illustration is clear, isn’t it? Your household has the kinds of containers that he describes. You have the fine china or dinner dishes that are only brought out for special occasions. They are used for honorable purposes. Meanwhile, there is also the trash bin…or maybe even more graphic, the container that is carried around when a person feels nauseous. It serves a less honorable purpose. God’s children are to be like the first kind of container.

We are to be…

  • A vessel for honor
  • Useful for the Master
  • Truly prepared to do the good works that are part and parcel of the Christian life

In order to do any of those, Paul reminds us that we must cleanse ourselves from the dishonorable things of life. In fact, here is the way that the Apostle John describes our cleansing.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn. 1:9)

Our role is that of confession…of acknowledging the shortcomings of our deeds, words, or thoughts to God. Then did you notice what He does? He forgives…He purifies.

Thank you, Jesus, for making us useful to the Master!

Steve Kern

March 7 – The Gospel of Matthew

Read Romans 15:4 and 2 Timothy 3:16

Have you ever read anything and thought to yourself, “What on earth did I just read?” Maybe you’re reading something that you’re familiar with and your brain kind of spaces out as your eyes scan the words on the pages, thinking of the hundreds of things you have to do that day.

When I was little, I was very much a reader. I’m a 90’s kid so I’ve read most of the Berenstain Bears books as well as any mystery book I could get my hands on, such as The Hardy Boys series. It was nothing for me to sit down and smash out chapters of a book with little effort.

I have used the excuse that reading in college kind of thwarted my desire to read. The pages and pages that we were “required” to read quickly turned into me scanning the pages without retaining much at all.

This scanning-type reading can easily become how we read the Bible. Am I the only one?

Starting tomorrow, we are going to begin a read-through of the gospel of Matthew. What you’re going to read is going to be a biography or story-type writing. You’re going to be tempted to scan because there’s a good chance you have read some of this before.

I want to bring Romans 15:4 to your attention as we prepare for this 4-week series:

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

As you read the book of Matthew over the next 4 weeks, I challenge you to read each day with anticipation. What can you glean from these chapters? Second Timothy 3:16-17 says:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

If you read with an open heart, open to whatever the Holy Spirit will bring to your attention, your life can change by reading something that might even be familiar to you.

I’m excited for this challenge. Get ready for tomorrow by preparing your heart today!

Jake Lawson

March 19 – Faithful – He Remains Faithful

Read 2 Timothy 2:1-26

Over the years, I have witnessed some “worship wars.”  That is not a modern day reality show, whereby worshipers are judged with regard to sincerity, quality, and biblical accuracy of their worship.  Instead, it has been people at odds with one another over music style, instruments, volume, and more.  Thankfully, there is no single musical style that exclusively pleases God.  And thankfully, tension is relieved at Grace by offering two different venues with two different styles.

Ever wonder what songs were used in the first century church?  It is safe to say that this predates songs like “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” and the use of electric guitars.  Occasionally, the Scriptures let us listen in to some of the lyrics.  In fact, many theologians agree that 1 Timothy 2:11-13 represent words to a Christian song, with which the early church was apparently familiar.  Of special interest to us are the words that remind us of God’s faithfulness in verse 13:

“…if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 NIV)

Before we consider God’s unconditional faithfulness in claiming His children, let me point out that there are promises of God that are conditional.  For example, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 NIV)  Did you notice how my forgiveness is contingent upon my confession?

Meanwhile, aren’t you glad to know that God’s faithfulness in claiming Christ followers as His own is not contingent upon the degree to which we are fully surrendered and obedient at any point in time?  He remains faithful to us in spite of lapses when we are unfaithful to Him.  His faithfulness is not a wishy washy uncertainty that should cause you to question, “Will He stand by me as one of His children?  I mean look at what I have done/thought/said?”  Thankfully, He is forever faithful in spite of our faithless moments!

He is a faithful God!

Steve Kern

May 19 – Trip to the Holy Land – Qumran

DAY 7 – QUMRAN

Theme: Accuracy & Authority of the Word of God

Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?  If so, why?  After all, the Bible reminds us that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16 – NIV).  How can we know that the Bible was originally “inspired by God?“ A stop at Qumran helps clarify this issue.

In 1947 in a cave of the Judean desert called Qumran, a Jordanian shepherd boy stumbled on to what is arguably the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century – the Dead Sea Scrolls.  He had no idea that the priceless clay pots of Qumran contained a wealth of evidence for the character of the Scriptures.

Before the Dead Sea Scrolls were uncovered, the oldest copies of the Old Testament, known as Masoretic texts, dated about 1000 AD.  Jewish tradition says that scribes carefully hand-copied each book in the Hebrew Bible so that no mistakes were made. In fact, if a mistake was discovered in an ancient scroll, it would be discarded and destroyed. When scrolls became frayed and worn, they also were destroyed.

But how do we know the scribes did not edit those ancient documents to make them look like they had supernatural origin? After all, in the Sixth Century BC, Daniel prophesied about four great kingdoms that would eventually rule the world 1500 years before the Masoretic texts were completed. How do we know that later scribes did not change the words of Daniel to make it look like he was actually writing prophecy about the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans? It’s one thing to describe accurately what has already happened in this world. That’s history! It’s something else to look ahead and accurately portray what will happen. That’s prophecy!

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were analyzed, they dated about 200 years before the time of Christ. That’s 1200 years earlier than those Masoretic texts!  The clay pots of Qumran yielded fragments, even major sections, of every book in the Old Testament, except the story of Queen Esther.  The scholars placed Dead Sea Scrolls and Masoretic texts side-by-side.  What do you suppose they discovered? You could basically draw an equal sign (=) between them. There were no substantial differences that threatened the theology of Old Testament authors.

In other words, God not only inspired His Word, He preserved His Word for all of us. If the Bible is not accurate, it is not authoritative. The Dead Sea Scrolls remind us that the Word of God we hold in our hands is reliable. It’s authentic. It can be trusted. “It is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 – NLT).

Prayer of reflection:  Father, help me to build my life around the accurate and authoritative teaching of the Word of God.

Bob Fetterhoff

February 11 – We are ALL IN!

Read 2 Timothy 2:2

I love our church!  Nothing more expresses who we are than our name – Grace Church.   Our church proclaims the message of Ephesians 2:8 – “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Only a few months after Roxanne and I came to town almost 40 years ago, our senior pastor, Ken Ashman, was promoted to the Lord‘s presence after leading this church for over 35 years.  Just a few weeks later, I was asked to become the new senior pastor at 27! That was a big risk for the leaders of our church! Despite my own inadequacies and failures, this group of believers demonstrated God’s grace and warmly embraced us!

Our daughters were born here, loved the ministries for kids, and got married in this church. They were discipled by people who embraced the life-changing power of God‘s grace. Today, both our daughters, their husbands, and our grandchildren are actively involved in their local churches, largely because of the influence of this church.

A few years ago, God directed me to step down as senior pastor and begin the transition to new leadership for our church. For years, Pastor Nick’s ministry with students had been greatly blessed by God where he clearly demonstrated great leadership gifts. Our board warmly embraced the idea of asking him to become the new senior pastor of our church.

After my sabbatical, Pastor Nick asked me to continue on our church staff as Pastor of Development. That was also a risky decision! Similar decisions in other churches have produced dissension. But, by God’s grace, not here.

And I love my new job! My role now involves stewardship and leadership development, pastoral care, and teaching. I get to say thank you to people who have invested in our church over the years so that we can share God’s grace with others!  I still spend time with people who are grieving, hurting or facing a health crisis. Pastor Nick also asked me to develop a series on Israel and prophecy which I’ve taught to several Sunday morning groups, and it’s been well-received!

As I think about all this, these words come to my mind: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2). An old song suggests we should be involved in “passing the faith along.” That’s one of the great characteristics of this church through the years. One generation has “passed the faith along“ to the next.

Life-change continues to be the driving mission of our church. It’s the kind of church where I still want to serve!  And I pray that you feel the same way.   It’s a decision that has implications for your family for generations to come.  You won’t regret it!

Bob Fetterhoff

 

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

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