I am not ashamed!

Romans 1 

This first chapter of Romans starts out as Paul’s letters do, with a greeting and Paul stating his credentials and then a greeting to whom he is writing. The difference in the letter to the Romans and most of Paul’s other letters is that Paul planted the churches to which he was writing in most of his letters. But he did not plant the church in Rome. It is believed that there were Romans who were present at Pentecost and they returned to Rome and the church was birthed in Rome through those people. Therefore, the faith that came out of Rome was from that movement. Paul only knew of them because as stated in verse 8 their “faith is proclaimed in all the world.” Paul had been praying to go to Rome but something was preventing him. He tells them in this letter he wants to come to Rome so that they may be “mutually encouraged”. He recognizes however that at the time his main ministry is not in Rome. 

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17)

What is the righteousness of God? In my studying I read that the righteousness of God does not describe man as being righteous. The righteousness of God is something that we receive from God. It is a gift from God to man, not a description of man. I think as a human race we tend to think of righteousness in uncomfortable terms. We do not want to think of ourselves as righteous in that we think that would be pious or haughty. However when we realize that the righteousness that we receive from God as a free gift when we become christians it tends to compel us to want to live a more righteous life for God. Living righteously simply means living right in the grace that God has given us. 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18) 

There is a wrath of God to contend with when people go on living in ungodliness and unrighteousness. The commentary stated that ungodliness refers to sins committed against God and unrighteousness refers to sins of man against man. When we go on living however we choose, knowing that it is not right living it is suppressing the truth of God. I have heard people often say “this is just who I am” or “I am what I am” but “God loves me for it anyway”. This is suppressing the truth of who God is. Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins and He is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. It is true that we all sin and that we all fall short. However when you just excuse your sins and don’t work on them, lay them down and attempt to change within the power of God that you are given, then you are not living in the truth of who God is and what Jesus came to do for us. Yes God loves you (ME) anyway, however He expects me to work on those sins and to lay them down. This does not mean I will ever become sinless but that I will grow in Christ and some of the sins that I formerly committed will not be a struggle for me anymore. 

Basically, what I see is that we may all be at a different level in our christian walk. This is where in my opinion grace will come in. Someone who is a new christian may have sins that you if you are a more seasoned christian do not have. We must give grace to the one who is growing in their faith. But growth is the key. According to Paul in this first chapter, if you do not honor God nor give thanks to him for what he has done for you, then you have a foolish heart. God may give you over to a debased mind. And before we all get to pious thinking our sins aren’t as bad as someone else’s let’s look at the list. 

“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such tings deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:29-32) 

Ouch! I don’t know about you but my toes are sore. Lord forgive me for the things that are in my heart and the ways I have not honored you. Please help us to recognize what in this list may be ours and Lord, please help me to lay down to you what I need to change in my own life. 

Romans – the righteousness of God

ROMANS 

Three weeks ago when I dug into 1 and 2 Timothy I didn’t know how much I would enjoy unpacking Paul’s letter to Timothy and the church at Ephesus. I went on to Titus and the churches of the Cretans and the letter to Philemon. I wish now that I had started in order in the Bible or I had looked up the chronological order of Paul’s letters and worked through them that way but I didn’t. So what I WILL do is this. I will now go back to the book of Romans and start unpacking it one chapter at a time and see what God wants to say to me every day through Paul’s letter and what He lays on my heart to share. And I will work through each of Paul’s letters until I finish. I was going to start today with Chapter 1 of Romans but there was information that I truly wanted to give before I went any further. 

I am taking this from a commentary that I read through the “Blue Letter Bible” app. I found it to be so interesting about how the book of Romans made an impact on 3 great meant that I truly wanted to share it. Again, the words I am about to type are not my words. 

The importance and impact of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. 

  1. In the summer of 386, a young man wept in the backyard of a friend. He knew his life of sin and rebellion against God left him empty and felling dead; but he just couldn’t find the strength to make a final, real decision for Jesus Christ. As he sat, he heard children playing a game and they called out to each other these words: “Take up and read! Take up and read!” Thinking God had a message to him in the words of the children, he picked up a scroll laying nearby and began to read: ‘not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires’ (Romans 13:13b-14). He didn’t read any further, he didn’t have to. Through the power of God’s Word, Augustine gained faith to give his whole life to Jesus Christ at that moment. 
  2. In August of 1513, a monk lectured on the Book of Psalms to seminary students, but his inner life was nothing but turmoil. In his studies, he came across Psalm 31:1 “In thy righteousness deliver me.” The passage confused Luther; how could God’s righteousness do anything but condemn him to hell as a righteous punishment for his sins? Luther kept thinking about Romans 1:17, which says, “the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, He who through faith is righteous shall live.” The monk went on to say: ‘Night and day I pondered until… I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Therefore I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise… This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven” Martin Luther was born again, and Reformation began in his heart. 
  3. In May of 1738, a failed minister and missionary reluctantly went to a small Bible Study where someone read aloud from Martin Luther’s Commentary on Romans. As the failed missionary said later: “While he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for my salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken my sins away, even mine” John Wesley was saved that night in London. 

Taken from David Guzik, Bible Commentary, Blue Letter Bible App. 

When I read these 3 testimonies on Romans, my first inclination was to run far away from thinking I could write anything that would come close to those men’s testimonies. But then I just decided I wanted to share those with you before we begin unpacking this book. I am wondering and excited to see what God will teach us in Romans. I am also overwhelmed at the thought of it. I will start unpacking it Monday morning. Please pray with me that God will teach us and that He will give me the words to say. He has been faithful thus far, I can’t help but believe and have faith He’s got something to say to us through this letter from Paul to the Romans. 

Please pray for the service industry today. The restaurant industry, small businesses, the travel industry. And if you go out, please be sure to tip well. 

Meeting by Chance?

Philemon

This little book is the only letter of Paul’s that is in the Bible that is a letter to just an individual. Actually it is to Philemon and his family but it is not meant for a community. After reading commentary what can be gleaned from this letter is that Philemon had a slave that had fled his household and maybe went to Rome and met up with Paul. It is not known if he knew Paul before or if this was a chance meeting that they came to realize they had a mutual acquaintance in Philemon. Paul and Philemon were obviously friends. 

“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,”  Philemon 1:4 ESV

This verse lends to believing that Paul and Philemon have a history with Paul saying always. In fact it is believed that Paul had led Philemon and his family to Christ. At any rate Paul was in the habit of praying for Philemon. It wasn’t just a one time prayer. I had a friend once who really opened my eyes to prayer and she pointed out how many times someone may say “I’m praying for you” in passing and yet do they, do we really do it when we walk away? She also stated how many times does someone come back and say “hey thanks for praying” yet in the back of your mind you think “oh, I forgot”. Prayer is serious business. If I tell you I am praying for you, I’m going to pray for you. Sometimes it may be that I say “I’m going to say a prayer for you.” Then it may not go on my prayer list, (believe me it’s a long list) of the people I pray for on a regular basis, but I can assure you that if I say I will say a prayer I am going to say a prayer. Paul was in the habit of praying for Philemon so there was relationship there. 

Paul is appealing to Philemon and his family in this letter to forgive and to open themselves back up to Onesimus who had found Christ through his encounter with Paul and was returning to them possibly to make things right after having fled them and for anything he may have taken from them when he left. Now back in those days what Philemon had done could have been punishable by death, even possibly being crucified. But Paul was appealing to Philemon because now Onesimus was more than a worker to him, he was a brother in Christ. Paul points out that Philemon, as a christian has to ‘do what is required (v 8) but he wants Philemon to forgive and accept Philemon back out of love. 

“Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you – I Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus – I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.” (vv 9-10)

The things I love about this story is the underlying story. It never is clear if Onesimus knew Paul before he fled to Rome. But the people who have spent way more time than me studying seem to suggest that the meeting between Onesimus and Paul was a chance one. Onesimus fled Philemon as a different person than he was returning to him. In Rome he possibly went to work for the Roman officials who were guarding Paul while Paul was under house arrest. Paul apparently befriended him and led him to Christ. Even if he did know Paul before, it would be a stretch to think that he was seeking Paul out, I think. This gives me great comfort in the way I know God works behind the scenes. I have experienced myself chance meetings that turned out to not be so chance. That later I could look back and see God’s hand on it. I think, and I have told you before I am not scholar, but I think that God orchestrated this meeting. We never find out exactly how Philemon handled the return of Onesimus, I hope he handled it the way Paul appealed to him. I hope I will do the same if I am faced with people who I feel have hurt me in some way when and if they return for forgiveness. 

Please pray for your pastors and your churches. A lot more churches are opening up this weekend. I am praying for safety and for God to move in them. 

Only by Grace

Titus 3

This is my favorite chapter of the book of Titus. It starts out with Paul telling Titus to “remind them”. To me it seems that Paul is telling him to just keep on keeping on, keep telling them about Jesus but that also that they have to be submissive to the authority around them and to be prepared to do the work of Jesus. He tells him to avoid quarreling. This doesn’t mean to roll over, but to avoid it and to be gentle and to show courtesy to everyone. In other words BE KIND! But my favorite part is coming up. 

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7 ESV) 

We have been talking a lot in these chapters about how bad the Cretans were and how bad people are today and how bad the world is. Paul is telling Titus here remember what we came from! You see I know deep in my heart and in my soul that if I didn’t spend a little time with Jesus every single day that I would be a wretched wretched woman! That if left on my own and not reminded I also could get very pious very quickly. It feels like I could be walking a tight rope every day between thinking too much of myself to thinking too little of myself. I can be quick to get all spiritual or spiraling down a slippery slope to who knows what because of my wretchedness. We all need to remember what we came from. What did Jesus save us from? What path could we have taken? It’s real easy to get, as I said yesterday, on a spiritual high horse and if we aren’t careful to look down from it at those bad ole Cretans and think small of them. But that is not showing the love of Jesus. And when I really stop and think about some of the choices I made before I knew Christ and started walking with Him, I realize that where I am today is only by grace! That I was saved by His goodness and loving kindness and His mercy. And I have this hope only because of Him and who He is in my life. I never want to forget where I came from because it only proves to make me so grateful to Him. And out of that gratitude of what He has done for me makes me want to be a light for Him. I don’t want to sit up on a spiritual high horse. I want to remember, and I pray that I never look down on anyone for their choices and decisions because I realize how very close I was to making choices that could have destroyed me. I pray that I can be a light to show them Jesus’ love. Because I am who I am only by His grace. 

Lord Jesus I pray never let me forget, never let us forget what we came from. Help us to be kind and to be a light in this world and to show Your love and Your goodness to others Lord. Keep us off that spiritual high horse and walking with You Lord. Help us to remember who we belong to and that is only by Your grace and mercy! 

Please also pray for the educators and the students. Everyone is trying to answer the million dollar question. “What is school going to look like this year?” 

Lead by example!

Titus 2

Paul is giving directives for living, as well as teaching in this chapter. He is telling Titus first of all to teach sound doctrine. This is the first and foremost. He was to teach the older men and women how to live rightly with God. At first glance some of the directives we would think might have come along with age and wisdom anyway but we have to remember that he was in Crete and was there to teach the Cretans, who we have already pointed out had their own sets of issues. Then he tells him how the older men and women should train the younger men and women. One of the things that he points out is that in these things, in living upright self controlled lives we are bringing credit to the word of God. Or at least we are not bringing discredit to it. Basically as christians we are supposed to try to live in such a way that the outside world has nothing bad to say about us. We are to teach and to live by example. 

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned so that an opponent may be put to shame having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8 ESV) 

This just keeps reminding me of Jesus words. 

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35 ESV

I find myself as I am trying to explain this chapter afraid that it is coming across very legalistic and I am always much much more about relationship than I am legalism. I feel like that if you get your relationship right with Christ, and if you spend time with him that He will show you what needs to change. However, there are things that are very important for us to remember as the world looks on us as christians. And some of the things that Paul points out to Titus here are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love and steadfastness, the women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers nor “slaves to much wine”. This can sound like a list of do’s and don’ts, however when you dig a little deeper you know that the Cretans had been living pretty much however they wanted to. Titus was sent to be an example to them and to teach them how to live godly and upright lives. 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. (Titus 2:11-12 ESV)

If ever in my lifetime did the church need to be setting itself apart living godly lives and being an example to others I believe it is now. It is always to be this way but now especially. There is so much going on around us and the christian church is being persecuted while we (generally speaking) are sitting up on our spiritual high horses. We are to be living by example, in love, in faith, steadfast. We should be loving our fellow man. I have reached a point I can hardly even watch the news because of all that is going on in the world. I wrote a few weeks ago about how easy it would be to hole myself up in my little corner of the world and just let the rest work itself out. But there has to be a balance. How can I show the love of Christ to the world even in the midst of the crazy stuff going on? I can start with a smile, with the opening of doors and a you go first attitude. I can embrace people for who they are and if given the opportunity teach sound doctrine, the love of Jesus. I can love and lead by example, hopefully trying to live in such a way that no one can find anything bad to say about me. I can watch my mouth and not slander or gossip (ohh I know this one is probably the hardest one for me). I can do my best to live self-controlled and upright and godly so that this present age and those around me will hopefully see Jesus in me and want what He has to give me and know that if He will help me through every day that He will help you too. 

Please pray for our nurses, our doctors, our medical professionals whether they are sitting behind a desk or driving an ambulance or mopping the floor in the hospital. Also include all first responders, firemen, policemen and anyone and everyone who are always on the front lines. 

Lost Cause?

Titus 1

When I first read this chapter I have to admit. I was having a hard time finding what good I could point out in it. Other than one little thing that I noticed that Paul told us in the greeting which is tucked away in the list of his credentials. 

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which GOD, WHO NEVER LIES, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior. (Titus 1:1-3 ESV, emphasis mine)

Those 4 words in this description really stuck out to me as one of the best parts of this chapter. “God, who never lies”. Don’t miss this my friends. In fact in Proverbs we read 6:16-19 it says that God hates liars and back in Numbers 23:19 it says “God is not a man that he should lie.” I am sure there are many other references in the Bible about lying, but these are just a couple that came to mind. Don’t miss this God never lies. There are promises in God’s word that you can take away and stake your life on because they are well His promises. He is trustworthy and He is true. 

Paul is writing this book to Titus, whom he calls a true son in the faith and he greets him with grace and peace. But the next few paragraphs, if I had been Titus, well I might have been more discouraged than encouraged at first glance. Titus has been left behind by Paul in Crete. Apparently Crete was not the happiest place on earth to be. Titus has been left with the job of establishing the churches there and setting up the elders in the churches. Paul gives him a list of qualifications for him to look at while he is setting up these elders which don’t seem to be hard for him to find. But apparently the people of Crete were not, well the most stellar people. In verse 12 it is pointed out “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” and this was pointed out by one of their own people. In other words Titus truly had his work cut out for him. These were people who were pretty much living however they wanted and Titus had to figure out how to help them get their churches off the ground and then he was being told how they were all liars and were unfit people. Can you see why I struggled?

But I kept reading and I kept asking God to reveal to me what is the take away from this chapter and then it dawned on me. Why would Paul leave Titus behind if these people were a lost cause? Why would God have directed Paul, who obviously was a true man of God by this point of his life to leave Titus behind to build churches, to teach the people of Crete if they were a lost cause? He wouldn’t. There are no lost causes as long as there is breath in someone’s lungs. Titus had a big job in front of him, but Paul found the Cretans worthy enough to appoint Titus to be there. He was giving him directives and Titus was going to have to hold firm to his teaching no doubt. 

If you have been praying for someone for a long time that in you, you wonder if they could be a lost cause, please find comfort and encouragement in this chapter of Titus. That even though the descriptions given of the Cretans paint them to be pretty corrupt people, that God directed Paul to give them Titus to teach and to love them and to point them to the faith. You may be someones Titus today. Ask God how you can teach and how you can love them. And then you have to remember it’s a process. Rarely do we get those Damascus road experiences. Most of the time the process is happening so that God can do His work in their life. When you have someone that you are praying for over a long period that maybe some might deem a lost cause you just have to keep praying, keep staying on your knees, keep dragging them in your mind to the foot of the cross and keep laying it down and then trust God to do the work. Be their Titus. 

Please pray for our President, Vice President, Governor, and our country today! 

Preach the Word!

2 Timothy 4

This is the last chapter of Paul’s letters to Timothy. He starts this chapter giving Timothy a charge. Not a request, not a suggestion, a charge. Preach the Word!

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom, preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 1-2 ESV)

Many times we tell our children “remember whose you are”. This is in essence what Paul was telling Timothy when he tells him “in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus”. He reminds him that Jesus is the only one to judge the living and the dead, that by his appearing and his kingdom “preach the word”. Yes that is a charge for pastors, to be ready in season and out of season. But I think it is a charge for all of us. We should all be studying the word in order to be ready in season or out of season. For we never know when we may have to defend, or to tell a seeking person, what we believe. It is our responsibility to study the word so that we can know good doctrine when we hear it.

Paul goes on in this chapter talking about a day when people will have “itching ears” to hear what they want to hear. Well I think we can say that we are living there too right now. People will turn away from truth and wander away into myths. Sound familiar?

I think this letter is beginning to sound a little like maybe Paul isn’t so sure He is going to be rescued from this prison. In the next paragraph Paul tells Timothy he has already been poured out as a drink offering. What he is saying here is I have given all I can give. I have nothing left in me to give. But he also lets it be known that when it’s his time he is ready.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7 ESV)

Paul is letting Timothy know that if this is the end of his earthly ministry that he is ready. He is claiming his crown of righteousness and acknowledges that there are others who have and worked and loved also.

Paul also goes along to request a face to face with Timothy. He asks him to come to him and to pick up a few things along the way. He asks him for a cloak that he had left behind and his books and scrolls. This tells me that Paul is not finished learning. He may know that he is nearing the end of his life but he still hungers to learn. As we should all do. I pray that the Lord will allow me to learn right up until the day he takes me home.

“The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.” 2 Tim. 4:22

The commentary I read made it sound like this may have been Paul’s last written words. I am not sure if they are but I can tell you that should be our prayer for all people. So for today I leave you with this.

The Lord be with your spirit and Grace be with you! What more could we ask.

Please pray for your service industry, small businesses and let’s add to this to please pray for our first responders.

Last days?

2 Timothy 3

Who knew that 1 and 2 Timothy were so fully relevant to the times we are living right now? I sure didn’t when I started this. But then the Bible is always relevant isn’t it? This chapter starts out talking about the last days. But this is not just talking about wars and rumors of wars as is pointed out in scripture as signs of the last days. This one is talking about people and their hearts..

“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” (2 Tim. 3:2-5 ESV)

Sound familiar? We have a lot of crazy stuff going on in the world right now, but I can’t help but think there have been other times in history that people had to think they had a lot of crazy stuff going on. I am no scholar so I can’t tell you this is it, the Lord is coming back soon. And scripture says that no one knows the time but God alone. But what I can tell you is that God is not surprised by the things that are happening. God still has a purpose and a plan and whether this is the last days and Jesus is coming back tomorrow or a hundred years from tomorrow we have things to learn about the times and yes we can identify with what Paul is saying here. Paul tells Timothy to avoid such people. He also gives an example here from Moses day and the people who opposed him. And as he is telling Timothy to avoid them he also assures him.

“But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.” (2 Tim 3:9 ESV)

Our take away from that is this that as we look at the people who follow the descriptions in verses 2 – 5 we can know the those people will not get very far and their folly will be plain to all. I know that it seems like they are getting very far but remember who is still on the throne and none of this can happen without filtering through His hands. Next Paul is very emphatic with where Timothy’s focus should be.

“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra – which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 2 Tim. 3:10-13

Paul is talking about how the Lord has rescued him from prison in the past. Mind you, Paul is sitting in prison and telling Timothy of his rescue yet at the very moment he is in chains. Paul no doubt is realizing that Jesus can rescue him again, but at this point he doesn’t know if he will or not. He went on to tell Timothy that if you are going to be a believer in Christ you will be persecuted for it. So why are we so surprised by the persecutions that come now? What are we to do with them? Paul tells Timothy to hold on to the heritage of his faith. Timothy has the benefit of having a legacy that dates back to his childhood. But not everybody has that. But I think, and this is just my thoughts here that once you become a Christian we all have a legacy of faith that has gone down through the ages. You may not have a library of scriptures in your head but you can start where you are with learning and memorization and God can and will use them for comfort and peace.

The last two verses are my favorite of this chapter and have been favorites for a long time.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16-17

No matter what kind of people you come up against, no matter the last days or not, no matter what kind of crazy you come in contact with today, you hang onto God and the scriptures and you will be complete and equipped for the work He calls you to do. If you are just starting the library in your head that one might be a good one to memorize!

Please pray for the pastors and for our churches today. I am so excited to be back in mine.

A Good Soldier

2 Timothy 2

Have you ever thought about why when someone enlists in the military they go off to basic training? I am not as versed in this as others but it’s my understanding that when in basic training they take cell phones away and pretty much while in training to be a soldier they have very little contact with the outside world. The soldier eats, sleeps and works with fellow soldiers under a commanding officer. A good soldier is aiming to please his commanding officer. Much the same with athletes. A good athlete trains and competes by the rules and then may win the crown. He is not going to win the crown if he doesn’t train and play by the rules. Paul is using these as an example to say that we are to aim to please the one who enlisted us (Jesus) that we train and learn from Him in order to play by the rules and with it we will win the crown (which is winning others to Christ). Yes I truly believe that we are to be in the world and that we are to let our light shine among men. But maybe what Paul is saying here is that there is also one on one training we need to be doing with our commanding officer in order to lead others to Christ. (vv 1-5) The next verse kind of threw me.

“It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” 2 Tim. 2:6

I had to read that verse over and over because I thought we were supposed to offer back to God the first fruits. I read some commentary and I read this verse over and over in other translations. What I think Paul is saying here is that when you are working hard in the harvest like the hard working farmer, you will receive the first knowledge, and the first blessings. We can’t feed others if we are not in training ourselves, whether it be as an athlete, or a soldier or the farmer who is digging to learn so that we can go out and teach and lead. You will have to spend time in prayer and in study in order to be a good soldier for Christ.

Paul carries on to bring reference to the fact that he is still in chains.

“But the word of God is not bound!” (2 Tim. 2:9)

There is one of those exclamation points. I love looking for them in scripture now. Paul is saying that while he is in prison he still has a purpose. That God still has a purpose for him. Oh how encouraging to me that even when sometimes I wonder if I am where I should be in life that God still has purpose for me and His word is not bound. What I am to do is to be obedient to Him and speak his truth and write and teach when and where He calls me to do so.  Whatever “prison” I think I am in, God can still use me.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

That is my prayer for today, for me and for you.  What I want more than anything is for God to approve of me. I want to rightly handle His word. I pray that I am rightly handling His word. Paul goes on again to talk about “irreverent babble”. Be careful who and what you are listening to.

Paul lays out another charge at the end of this chapter:

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Tim. 2:22)

God is calling us, Paul is challenging us to live with these things in mind. We are to pursue righteousness, we are to have faith, love others and do our best to live at peace with each other. Paul is not just telling Timothy how to live at peace and what he should be doing he is also goes on to tell Timothy to have nothing to do with arguments, ignorant controversies and quarreling. As the Lord’s servants we are not to be quarrelsome but kind to everyone and to be gentle. When I started this study of Timothy I had no idea how much of it would feel relevant to the times. (Why does that surprise me?) I do not think we are called to bury our head in the sand. Please hear that is not what I am saying here. I believe we are supposed to see what is going on around us but as it says in this chapter we as Christians should be kind, we should handle things with gentleness.

Lord help us today to handle your words with truth, help us to pursue righteousness, have faith, love others, live at peace with others and to be kind and gentle to those who may not see eye to eye with us.

Please pray also today for the educators and students. Decisions are being made about what to do with next year.

Guard the Deposits!

2 Timothy 1

Paul wrote a second letter to Timothy and the church and starts it out sending his grace, mercy and peace! As I was studying I ran across in a commentary that when Paul was writing to the church he would send grace and peace but when Paul would send letters to the church and to the minister of the church he would always include mercy. Hmm maybe that means we should be including mercy to our ministers too. The first thing he writes to Timothy in this letter is to remind Timothy that he prays for him night and day. He states he remembers Timothy’s tears. According to commentary it could mean that Timothy cried the last time that Paul and Timothy were together face to face. When I read it my first thought was that maybe Timothy had somehow communicated to Paul how hard ministry was and that he shed many tears for the people of his church. At any rate Paul is letting him know that he prays for him, he longs to see him and he is telling Timothy again to hold onto his faith. Faith that has legacy in his life with his mother and grandmother. Oh how important it points out to me to know that the faith that we walk today can and will be carried down to our children and our grandchildren.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Tim. 1:6-7)

I have often heard verse 7 quoted many times. We use this verse (as we should) when we fear things that are put before us, when we are uncertain about our next steps or when we are struggling with thoughts and our own actions that we don’t seem to think we can control. But I like the way it goes with verse 6. Paul is telling Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” that Paul himself had laid hands on him to do. What does it even mean to “fan into flame”? We all have gifts and purposes that God has put us here for. But those gifts and purposes can lay stagnate and dormant in our life if we are not using them. That’s the basic precept here. I know for me if I listen too much to the thoughts and voices coming at me, I can hear the “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not smart enough” “I could never do that” so loudly that I feel crippled in what I think or feel the things God may be calling me to do. The fanning into flame is simply doing the thing that God puts before you. It may be rocking babies in the nursery, it may be teaching the Sunday school class. It may be simply opening the door for someone. What are the gifts that God is putting before you? Fanning them into flame is taking the next right step. And see where God leads you next.

Paul also tells Timothy not to be ashamed of his testimony nor of Paul being in prison.

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God (2 Tim. 1:8 ESV)

There may have been things that people were saying about the fact that Paul was in prison. We have the benefit of the rest of the story. We know that God’s intent with Paul was to use him through the ages. But I wonder when Paul and Timothy were living it could there have been doubts? Maybe Timothy was at the time having doubts about his own calling because well, look where it got Paul. Paul seems to be pretty steadfast in his calling but the words here to encourage Timothy make me wonder a bit if Timothy was doubting. Paul is encouraging Timothy to be steadfast too. In verses 8 – 11 Paul is laying it out there telling Timothy, don’t be ashamed of the gospel, share in the suffering of the gospel, that God has called each of us to a purpose and grace and that Jesus abolished death. Paul is very emphatic when he says

“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Tim. 1:12 ESV)

I find this to be a very encouraging chapter if you are a christ follower. But I know that for me the only way for me to battle the voices that I feel tell me I am not worthy, and the wondering about my calling or the doubts that can fill my life is to guard what I feel He has put right in front of me. To guard the deposits he has entrusted to me, the things He has called me to do.

“By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” (2 Tim. 1:14 ESV)

Please pray for the medical professionals today. Pray for a cure or vaccine. Pray for Covid-19 to go away!