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Friday, July 14, 2017

The Last Brick – Part 4 (Firewall cont.)

The last imperative in 2 Timothy 4:5 is “fulfill.”  Paul commands his apprentice to “fulfill your ministry.”  Like many of Paul’s sentences, the word order in the original is emphatic placing the imperative at the end and the object first.  So literally, “the service (ministry) of you fulfill.”
The Last Brick – Part 4 (Firewall cont.)

Why would Paul stress this to his protégé?

If you read ahead in 2 Timothy 4:6 – 18, you will note that people left the ministry and deserted Paul in his time of need.  The implications are that though Paul finishes well, 2 Timothy 4:7, there are many who do not.  One of my friends points out that we find many in their 20’s and 30’s on fire for the Lord, but, he observes, there are few in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s that do more than slide for home.

Paul wants Timothy to complete (the root of the word here translated fulfill) fully the assignment that the Lord has given him.

This last imperative is particularly important for all of us.  2 Peter 5:8 reminds us that we have a faithful, intentional, murderous enemy.  Success, completion, fulfillment in and of our Christian life and ministry to others is under constant attack.  This stark reminder by the apostle coupled with the similar warning by Peter in 2 Peter 3:17, should serve to keep us diligent to continually rely and depend on the Lord to finish this race.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Last Brick – Part 3 (Firewall cont.)

The third command for Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5 is “do the work of an evangelist.”
The Last Brick – Part 3 (Firewall cont.)

Consider that for a moment.  I have heard many times that some people have the gift of evangelism.  I have heard some pastors tell their congregations that evangelism is getting people to come listen to the pastor share the gospel.

I cannot find evangelism on any of the lists of spiritual gifts.  That is on any of the lists in the Bible.  I am sure I have seen it on lists that man has produced.  Paul does not mention it as a gift in any of his lists, Romans 12:3 – 8, 1 Corinthians 12:4 – 11, or Ephesians 4:11 – 16.

He just tells his key man to do the work.  Share the gospel.  It is not a gift.  It is a command.

Making disciples is not a gift either.  In Matthew 28:18 – 20, make disciples is the main verb and it is imperative.  Christ commanded us to make disciples.  Part of that process is to share the gospel.

It is not a gift.

It is a command.  A command that has been given to all of us who have trusted in Him.

You may say that you don’t know how.  You may say that you don’t know what to say.  May I suggest you read John 9 and Acts 26.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Last Brick – Part 2 (Firewall cont.)

The second command that Paul gives his protégé in 2 Timothy 4:5 is “endure hardship”.  This specific word, κακοπαθέω (kakopatheō) shows up only 3 times in the New Testament, and once in the Greek version of the Old Testament, the Septuagint:
The Last Brick – Part 2 (Firewall cont.)

Verse Translation
2 Timothy 2:9 suffer hardship
2 Timothy 4:5 endure hardship
James 5:13 is suffering
Jonah 4:10 you did work (negated by the Greek word for “not” so it reads “you did not work”)

However, there are other instances of a compound word συγκακοπαθέω (synkakopatheō) that appears twice more in 2 Timothy, the only occurrences of the word in the New Testament:

Verse Translation
2 Timothy 1:8 join with me in suffering
2 Timothy 2:3 suffer hardship with

2 Timothy 1:8; 2:3; and 4:5 are all commands, imperatives.

So what?

There is a thread here throughout Paul’s letter to his disciple.  Paul is calling Timothy to work hard at the task of entrusting the truth of the gospel to those to whom he has been sent to serve.  This command is repeated three times in 83 verses.  One could get the impression that Paul is serious.

But doesn’t this only apply to Timothy?  Or shouldn’t it only apply to those who are in leadership in our communities of faith?  Is it not our pastor’s job to work that hard in and for the gospel?

Perhaps.  But, consider:
  • Matthew 6:33
  • Matthew 28:18 – 20
  • John 13:15
  • Philippians 3:17
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:7
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9
  • 1 Timothy 1:16; 4:12
  • Titus 2:7
  • James 5:10
  • 1 Peter 2:6
It seems like the expectation of the New Testament is that all believers are subject to that imperative, does it not.

Why then, do you think, many do not seem to do so?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Last Brick - Part 1 (Firewall cont.)

The third and last command Paul gives his protégé is in 2 Timothy 4:5.  There are four elements, four imperatives, four commands:
  • Be sober in all things
  • Endure Hardship
  • Do the work of an evangelist
  • Fulfill your ministry
The Last Brick - Part 1 (Firewall cont.)
The first, “be sober,” is strong.  The word appears only six times in the New Testament, of those six three are imperative: 2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Peter 4:7; and 1 Peter 5:8.  If we consider those passages in context, we see that the Spirit used the term in the imperative in the face of evil and false teachers (2 Timothy 4:5), the need to pray based on the reality of the ending of this world (1 Peter 4:7), and a solemn reminder that we are continually under attack by the enemy of our Lord (1 Peter 5:8).

In this passage, by starting with this imperative, Paul is adding enormous weight to his charge to Timothy.  This is not a casual assignment.  It is not optional.  It is deadly serious.  It is not one of several things in which we dabble; it is central to our life and calling in the Lord.

Many believers tend to delegate.  It is fine to delegate.  It is an essential business practice.  It is an incredibly important tool in the training of men and women in all walks of life.  However, there are some things that we cannot, or better, should not delegate.  Primary on that list is our walk with God.  We cannot live the Christian life by proxy.  We cannot know God through other’s study.  It is not OK to have several degrees of separation between us and our Savior.

Paul’s commands to Timothy are commands to us.  These are not marching orders for “professional Christians”.  We are called to be sober, serious, centered in our lives and relationship with Christ.  It is not ok for us to delegate that relationship to others.

The word accountability is much overused in the Body.  If you do a word search in your Bible app on your device or look in a concordance, you find that we are accountable to God, not each other.  In this matter, the word applies.  We are accountable to the Creator of the universe, the One who sent His Son to die in our place, the One who called us to Himself and gave us life and gifts for His purposes to be sober, serious about our relationship to Him and the work for which He designed us.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall, part 5 (Firewall cont.)

You are probably aware that the chapter and verse divisions were not in the original manuscripts.  Those were added much later.  The Chapters were added in 1227 and the verses were added in 1551.  There are some places where the divisions unfortunately break up the flow of the text.  The division between 2 Timothy 3 and 4 is one of those places.
Another Brick in the Firewall, part 5 (Firewall cont.)
When I started this series I made the mistake of not reading past the end of chapter 3.  The structure in the Greek reveals yet another brick in the firewall against evil men and impostors in 2 Timothy 4:5.  You may remember that each of the other “bricks” were set off by the Greek phrase, Σὺ δὲ, literally “you but.”  That same phrase starts 2 Timothy 4:5.

That means structurally that the second brick, the necessity of abiding in the Word of God does not end at 2 Timothy 3:17 but at 4:4.  When we consider the text with that in mind some important observations come to light.

First, after exhorting Timothy to abide in the Word of God so strongly in 3:14 – 17, he then strongly – really strongly – charges him to proclaim what he learns from his abiding in the Word continually.  Your Bible probably translates the first word of 4:2, “preach”.  The word throughout history meant to herald or proclaim.  It is the sense of proclaiming or heralding the message of the king or another authority.

Why would that matter?

What comes to mind when you read or hear the word preach?  If you are like most of us you think sermon, preacher, Sunday morning, or Saturday night.  But, we are all tasked to proclaim the Word.  That is, if Jesus was serious about Matthew 28:18 – 20 and Paul meant what he told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2.

Second, notice that how Paul expands how "proclaim" mirrors the ministry of the Word of God in 4:2;
Teaching Proclaim
Reproof Reprove
Correction Rebuke
Training in Righteousness Exhort

Our ministry to each other not only should emerge out of our abiding in the Word it should also mirror the ministry of the Word of God.

Lastly, note that 4:3 – 4 mirrors 3:1 – 5.  This middle brick of proclaiming the results of abiding in the Word of God is a major counter to those who are spreading false teaching.

Which brings us to the third and final brick in the firewall…

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall, part 4 (Firewall cont.)

You probably have 2 Timothy 3:16 – 17 memorized.  It is yet further emphasis on the importance of the Word of God in the process of building a firewall to stand against evil men and impostors.
Another Brick in the Firewall, part 4 (Firewall cont.)

Paul reminds his apprentice that Scripture is not just any other book.  The Word of God is inspired, the ESV translates the word θεόπνευστος (theopneustos), “breathed out by God”.  The point?  Timothy best pay attention to, and remain in the inspired by God's Word.

Paul emphasizes his point by outlining for his man the function and purpose of the inspired Word of God.  The ministry of the Word of God Paul expounds here is fourfold:
  • Teaching
  • Reproof
  • Correction
  • Training in Righteousness
This illustration from the Navigators, Design for Discipleship, Book 2, is a great illustration of Paul’s instruction.
The Critical Nature of the Word of God

The purpose of the ministry of God’s Word in Timothy’s life and by extension ours is, according to Paul, critical.  It is to make us adequate.  Again our translations hide Paul’s emphasis.  The passage literally translated would be, “in order to adequate may be the of God man, toward all work good equipped.”  The word order emphasizes the purpose of making us adequate and equipped for good work.  The two words translated, adequate and equipped are the noun and verb form of the same word family, again emphasis.

The point here is that in the face of the increasing number of false teachers, the evil men and impostors, it is critical for Timothy to abide in the Word of God.  Not to do so will render him inadequate and unequipped.

Based on Matthew 28:18 – 20, and Paul’s exhortation to entrust this to others, 2 Timothy 2:2, the critical need to abide in the Word of God is true for us as well.  Not to do so, would, as with Timothy, render us inadequate and unequipped to deal with false teaching.

There is much more to say here, especially about verse 16, but that will have to be covered in another post at another time…meanwhile, there is one more brick…

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall, part 3 (Firewall cont.)

We have been examining, somewhat closely, 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to build a firewall to protect the church against evil men and impostors.  We saw in the last post that the center of the second brick was an emphasis on continuing in the Word of God.
Another Brick in the Firewall, part 3(Firewall cont.)

In verse 15 Paul amplifies his argument.  He reminds his apprentice that he has known the sacred writings since childhood.  This has much to those of us who are parents or hope to be.  It is a tacit reminder to us that we are to, early and often, expose our children to the Word of God.

Paul’s emphasis is strong on this point.  The strength is obscured again by most of our English translations.  Paul places the object of the verb before the verb, literally it would read, “from childhood the sacred writings you have known.”  That is awkward in English so it is rendered differently in our translations.  Reversing the word order, though is one way of emphasizing a point.  Paul is emphasizing the sacred writings, the Word of God, to Timothy.

There is much error afloat in the Christian community, much like what Timothy was facing in Ephesus.  At a significant level what we face is orders of magnitude more difficult.  Timothy did not have to counter Radio, Television, the internet, nor was there anything yet in mass print.  Communication and the transmission of false teaching was done in person, traveling impostors.

Now we face all of that and more.  It makes it so much more important that first we abide in God’s Word and equip our children to as well.  Abiding, by the way, is more than a consistent devotional life…

Paul though, is not done with his instruction to Timothy…

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall, part 2 (Firewall cont.)

Continuing our look at 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, we are looking at the second brick in the firewall that Paul is commanding his apprentice, Timothy, to erect against evil men and impostors who are teaching a different gospel.
Another Brick in the Firewall, Part 2 (Firewall cont.)
There are two elements in this brick:

  • Abide in that which Timothy has learned from his mother, grandmother, and Paul
  • The things that Timothy has learned are rooted in the Scripture

The result of this exhortation seems to be that Paul is reiterating the need for Timothy to remember his example and to abide in that learning as well as its source the Scripture, sacred writings, God’s Word.

This is where things get confusing for me.  Confusing in this sense.  There is no question that there are still false teachers abundantly multiplying and continually gaining followers.  The source of my confusion is how it seems that leaders in the Church seem to be attempting to deal with the false teaching.

I have seen communities focus on detailed doctrinal statements as a means to protect against false teaching.  I know of classes that have been held to teach the correct way for Christians to think about certain topics.  Messages have been shared from pulpits, podiums, chairs, videos, MP3s, and books that explain the proper way to think and or act as a believer.

What I don’t see is any of those answers in the text here.  The majority of the exhortation here is centered on the Scripture.  It seems like Paul is setting personal abiding in the Word of God as a significant brick in the firewall against the propagation of error.

Yet when and where are we equipping and encouraging people to dig into God’s Word.  How often do we exhort people, remind them how critical it is for them to be in the Word of God for themselves.  Not just reading the text, but digging in, allowing it to transform our thinking, reorient our priorities.

Christ tells us in John 8:31 – 32, that we are to abide (your Bible may say continue, but it is the same Greek word translated abide in John 15:1 – 16) in His Word.  John 15:1 – 16 repeats the idea of abiding in Christ and His Word 11 times in those 16 verses.

It seems that the clear message is that we are supposed to do this.

And yet there is more to Paul’s exhortation…

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Another Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

As we have seen in the previous posts, the first brick in the firewall was for Timothy to follow the example of Paul…  Before we look at the second brick, it would probably be a good idea to note how we know there are two bricks.
Another Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

As I mentioned before our English translations somewhat obscure Paul’s repetitive structure.  The illustration below is from Bible Hub using the Interlinear option (purple highlight).  You can only look at one verse at a time in this view.  I have put 2 Timothy 3:10 and 14 together to show the repetition.  Look at the first two words circled in red, in both cases they are the same two words, Σὺ δὲ, literally “you but.”  In the NASB the two words are translated; “now you,” in verse 10 and “you, however,” in verse 14.  The second translation seems to add more weight to the second brick.  However in the original the vocabulary and structure is the same.  (One could argue that the second brick, since it is in the last position, may be more important – for your consideration.)

Now that we have established the two, let’s look a bit more closely at the second.  There is quite a bit here so we may spill over a few days.

The first thing we may notice is the continued contrast with the reality of the evil men and impostors that will continually increase in the last days.  In contrast to this reality Paul has told Timothy to follow his example and now the second thing, the second brick in the firewall, to continue in what he had learned.

The word continue, μένε (mene) is a form of the verb μένω (menō) to abide or remain.  The word is thickly repeated by John in John 15:1 – 16.  It seems to be a key concept in John.  Here Paul is using the same word to describe how Timothy is to stand against the coming reality of increasing false teaching.  He commands his apprentice to abide, remain, continue in that which he has learned.

Think through that.  We will expand on this and the rest of Paul’s exhortation in the next post or so…

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Still on One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

It is an absolute truth that none of us will ever get all that is in a text no matter how long we continue in our study.  The Word is the revelation of the thought of an infinite God, as such it has infinite depth.
Still on One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)
Yesterday we looked at the first brick in the firewall that Paul was encouraging his faithful apprentice to build in Ephesus.  My intention was to move to the second brick (another brick in the wall) today, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.  Why?  I looked at the text again, and saw more that we really need to consider.
SPOILER ALERT!  The two bricks are in 2 Timothy 3:10 – 13 and 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17.  Our English translations obscure the repetitive structure somewhat – but we will look at that in the post about the second brick.
Look again at 2 Timothy 3:10 – 13.  Yesterday we noted that the first brick was Paul exhorting Timothy, as he had in several other passages, to follow his example.  But note the content of Paul’s exhortation.  He references his:
  • Teaching
  • Conduct
  • Purpose
  • Faith
  • Perseverance
In the midst of:
  • Persecutions (which is emphasized by the repetition of the word in verse 11)
  • Sufferings
He then states unequivocally that anyone who attempts to follow his example will be persecuted.

Paul may have skipped the class on motivating disciples.

The language in the Greek suggests that Timothy was not a casual observer, not a tag along.  The word, παρακολουθέω (parakoloutheō), is only used four times in the New Testament (here, Mark 16:17, Luke 1:3, 1 Timothy 4:6).  The word suggests careful observation, investigation.  Timothy was taking notes.  He was fully engaged as one who was committed to duplicating or emulating his mentor.

Structurally, proportionality helps our observation here.  Paul invests more words in describing the resistance to than he does the elements of his ministry.  The not so subtle message to his protégé is that Timothy can expect significant, intentional, sustained resistance to the task in which he is engaged.  He should expect persecution.  Based on verse 13, the resistance will not abate, but increase.

That is instructive to me.  There seems to be a fair number of believers who seem to think that if God is in something, things will go well.  Truth be told there are times that I have been thinking that way.  Timothy is engaged in a work for which he was set apart, 1 Timothy 4:14.  He was entrusted with the truth.  He is commanded to guard that with which he was entrusted.  It seems as if we could easily surmise that he is in the middle of God’s will.

Paul, though, promises him increasing resistance and persecution.  Yeah, Paul skipped that motivation class.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

We have been looking at Paul’s warnings to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:1 – 9.  He is reiterating to his key man the warning to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:30.  Having detailed the challenge, Paul now begins to tell his man how to best counter this coming, certain evil.  How to build a firewall against the impostors.
One Brick in the Firewall (Firewall cont.)

The first brick in the wall is for Timothy to remember.

Timothy is to remember what he experienced as he traveled with Paul on the second and third missionary journeys (a good study is to look at Acts 16 – 27 and observe what Timothy saw and heard, the “things” of 2 Timothy 2:2, which Paul entrusted to his child in the faith).  Paul has already exhorted Timothy to share what he learned from Paul with those in the community who will be able to equip others, 2 Timothy 2:2.

Throughout Paul’s letters he calls those into whom he has poured his life to follow his example:

  • 1 Corinthians 4:16
  • 1 Corinthians 11:1
  • Philippians 3:17
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:7
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9

In 2 Timothy 3:10 – 13, he reminds Timothy of his example, reminding him in the process, that the assignment Timothy has been given is hard.  He will be resisted.  He will be persecuted.  But, one of his defenses in the midst of this difficult assignment under the onslaught of evil men and impostors, is to remember and follow Paul’s example.

So for Timothy, also for us.  The Christian life is not a solo enterprise.  We need examples.  We need mentors.  As each of us, based on the great commission, should have a Timothy into whom we are pouring our life; the prerequisite for our helping “our Timothy,” is to have “our Paul.”  Who is helping or who helped you?

Not only are we to imitate those men of great faith; not only was Timothy to imitate Paul; but Timothy and we are to be examples for others.  Paul exhorts both of his key men to be an example for their communities:

  • 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Titus 2:7

As we have seen, we face the same challenges of which Paul warned his disciple, Timothy.  As Timothy needed a firewall against the impostors, so also do we.  One of the important elements for that firewall is both having and being a good example.

But before the second and most important brick Paul shares a promise and a final warning.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Disciples of Impostors (Firewall cont.)

In the past couple of days we have said that those whom Paul is calling out are not content with being evil men and impostors, they are committed to lead others in the way of their “godliness”.
Disciples of Impostors (Firewall cont.)
They do this by going after the women in the community.  As an aside and as a suggestion for further study, note how much of this last letter of Paul to his closest co-laborer focuses on ministry to women.

2 Timothy 3:7, has always been a passage that scared me.  In the past I have wrongly attributed Paul’s description to the teachers.  But he is not describing them.  He is describing the women who are following them.

Regardless, the description, “always learning but never able to come the knowledge of the truth”, should still cause us a great deal of discomfort if not abject terror.  The word that is translated “knowledge” here is ἐπίγνωσις (epignōsis).  This word plays a prominent role in 2 Peter 1:3 – 10.  In that passage it is translated “true knowledge” in verses 3 and 8 and seems to have a similar force in verse 2.  The sense is that this is a clear understanding of truth.  A recognition of what God is revealing in the text.  Those who are the disciples of the impostors are not able to recognize the truth.

This is not the first time we have seen this reality in the Scripture.  Jesus rebukes the Jews in John 5:39 – 47, because they have completely missed the point of the Word.  They did not recognize the truth.  James tells us in James 1:22 – 25, that if we are not applying the Word, doing, obeying, applying it to our lives, it has no effect on our lives.  Essentially, we are not recognizing the truth.

I have encountered people enmeshed in the teachings of impostors.  They were committed and could recite nearly by rote convoluted and complicated systems of “thought” that was the teaching of the impostors they followed.  They were so deeply engaged in the false teaching that they were unable to state what the text of the Bible said.  They read and interacted through the lens of the system they had learned.  In many cases completely distorting the plain meaning of the text or else significantly redefining words in the text from any supportable historical or contextual meaning.

Some of these impostors are with us today.

The deeply troubling truth is that none of us are immune from slipping into error of this kind.  Which is really Paul’s point is it not?

He has laid out the danger.  He has described the evil men and impostors.  He next gives us an example to follow and tells us how to build the firewall against the conflagration of error that he warned the elders from Ephesus would come from among their own number in Acts 20:30; which warning he is repeating to his beloved son here.

We will dive into those remedies for error in the next posts.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Form (Firewall cont.)

Yesterday we ended by saying that we would look more closely at the evil men and imposter’s commitment to have disciples, but as I have considered that it makes more sense to invest a bit more time in 2 Timothy 3:5 (remember I was pulled into this passage two weeks ago, so deep that I lost track of time).
A Form (Firewall cont.)
As we saw yesterday, those who are evil and impostors view themselves as godly.  Paul says that they hold to a “form” of godliness.  That word “form” is interesting.  The Greek is μόρφωσις (morphōsis).  The word is only twice in the New Testament, here and Romans 2:20.  The word only shows up two or three times in the Koine literature which is used to help understand the different shades of meaning when we are digging deeper into the text.  So there is not much on which we can build our understanding.  The best practice then is to look at how Paul uses the term in those contexts.

When we look at the text, in both instances Paul is describing those who are either mishandling God’s Word or blatantly false teachers.  In Romans 2:20, Paul is rebuking those Jews who are using the Law to correct others, while not following it themselves.  Sounds like hypocrisy does it not?

In 2 Timothy 3:5, people who are evil and impostors are claiming godliness for their lifestyle.

It seems that in both cases we are dealing with those who have a skewed view of either God or the Christian life.  I get the mental picture of building a form in which to poor a concrete pad.  I need a square but the lumber used is warped, the sides are not straight and the angles are not ninety degrees.  If I were the people in Romans 2:20 I would be teaching people how to make a square form, correcting them when I had failed to make mine correctly.  If I were the evil and impostors of 2 Timothy 3:5, I would be holding my misshapen form out as the only true way to make a square form.

There are those today who fit in both categories.  Those who demand and teach what they are incapable of doing themselves, and those who portray a warped view of the Bible or Christianity as the truth.  Paul is warning us that this is the reality that we face as his apprentice Timothy did in Ephesus.

Later he tells us how to build the firewall.  But first, we need to look more closely at the evil men and impostors – tomorrow…

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Firewall cont.

Look with me at 2 Timothy 3:1 – 5.  In verse 1 Paul makes a general statement that he then unpacks in the next eight verses.
Firewall cont.
Paul warns Timothy, and by extension us, that things do not get better.  In fact, the last days, based on Paul’s description, seems to be a lush Petri dish for the growth of evil men and imposters.

Paul’s description of these men is detailed and reads like the character traits of some of our more prominent celebrities, politicians, and, unfortunately, some who present themselves as ministers of the gospel:
  • Lovers of self
  • Lovers of money
  • Boastful
  • Arrogant
  • Revilers
  • Disobedient to parents
  • Ungrateful
  • Unholy
  • Unloving
  • Irreconcilable
  • Malicious gossips
  • Without self –control
  • Brutal
  • Haters of good
  • Treacherous
  • Reckless
  • Conceited
  • Lovers of pleasure
  • Not lovers of God
I do not want any of that list applied to me.  However, I can see in my own life pulls in the direction of some of those characteristics.  Further, I can put the names of some men who are otherwise effective in ministry next to several of those traits.  It scares me.

But what makes this more incredibly and deeply horrifying is Paul’s summation in verse 5.  Those whom he is describing with this list view their life as “godly”.  They profess godliness.  Paul tells us that they don’t get it, but they are presenting themselves as godly while living out the reality of Paul’s list.

But they are not content to simply live a life of “godliness”.  They are looking for disciples.  We will look more closely at that tomorrow.

Friday, May 5, 2017


The Plan
I started this blog post about two weeks ago.  Typically, these emerge out of my time with the Lord in my quiet time or my Bible study.  I will review my journal and look for something that really grabbed my attention.  Then I will go back to the passage to make sure that I am not misrepresenting the text.
When I turned to 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17 to review and check what I had written in my journal something happened that I hope has happened to you.  I was pulled into the text.  It would not let go of me.  In fact I have been thinking about this passage, well actually the entire chapter, for the past couple of weeks.

The Structure
In the NASB the first two words in 2 Timothy 3:14 are, “You, however…”  If you have been reading this blog much you will know that one of the things to which we continually return is the importance of observation in our engagement with the Bible.  Structure is incredibly powerful in aiding our observation of a text.  Here, Paul, uses a strong, emphatic contrast.  That contrast, begs the question, “What is Paul contrasting here?”  That question, of course, forces us to go back and reexamine the first part of the chapter.

When we look back there are several stunning elements in those previous verses that lend enormous weight to 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17.

In the next few days we will examine this in some detail.  In the meantime take some time, look at 2 Timothy 3, jot down your thoughts, and let’s compare notes.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Intentional Focus

In one of the studies in which I am privileged to engage we are in 1 Timothy 4 this week.  Look at 1 Timothy 4:12 – 16.  Verse 12 is the one with which you are probably most familiar.
Intentional Focus

As you know the New Testament was written mostly in Greek.  Paul’s letters were all in Greek.  The verbs in Greek carry much of the weight in communicating the intent of the author.  In our study of the text then, it is most helpful, and important, that we pay attention to the verbs, particularly those directed to Timothy.  Those are:
  • Let (no one) look down on
  • Show yourself
  • Give attention
  • Do not neglect
  • Take pains
  • Be absorbed
  • Pay close attention
  • Persevere
All of these but the first are second person singular present active imperative, the first is third person singular present active imperative.  We will not engage in defining all of those terms, but the last three.  Present tense can have many nuances but here is continual action.  Active voice indicates Paul intends for Timothy to perform the root action of the verb.  Imperative mood, is as you might suspect, a command.  Paul is directing Timothy to personally see to these actions continuously.

So what?  We could say that Timothy has a lot of responsibility as a leader of the church in Ephesus, and as far as that goes we would be correct.

However, based on the object of the second verb, show yourself, Timothy is to be an example.  Paul tells us in multiple places that we are to follow his example:
  • 1 Corinthians 10:11
  • Philippians 3:17
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:7
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9
Not only does he command Timothy to be an example here, but also he commands Titus to as well in  Titus 2:7.


This is Paul following Christ’s command in Matthew 28:18 – 20, is it not?  Christ expects His disciples, which based on John 17:20, includes us, to teach all that He commanded as part of the process of making disciples.

That would seem to suggest that those imperatives Paul addressed to Timothy, are addressed to each of us as well.

Think about that.  Is that the focus of all of the believers in your community?  Or has that focus been delegated to those who are paid staff or have taken on the mantle of teacher?  It would seem that if Paul’s exhortation does apply to all of us, and I would strongly suggest that it does, that it becomes a practical corollary to Matthew 6:33 for all of us.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Dark Day

Yesterday, some time back, Christ was crucified.  The Son of God killed.  Placed in a tomb.
The Dark Day

The next day, today, was dark.  His disciples hid.  Their hopes, even though they were hoping for the wrong things, dashed.  Depressed, dejected, in despair.

Some days, some weeks, some months, some years, we seem to be in the dark.

Tomorrow is coming.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hard Painful Lessons

Some time ago I was nearly praying constantly for a group of people.  They were facing a difficult situation, decision, and I was deeply concerned about their choices and welfare.
Hard Painful Lessons
In the process of working through this with them I approached some of the members of the group for an update on their progress toward a solution.  The people I asked questioned my motives for asking.  It seemed that they thought I was going to use that information against the group.

Their response both shocked and hurt, hurt deeply.

I found my zeal to pray for the group and the difficulties they were facing impacted.  It was if the air had been let out of my passion to pray for them.  When I turned to pray for them the questioning of my motives laid like a pall over my halting intercession.

A few months later I was reminded of Christ’s interaction with His disciples in John 13:1 – 4.  The context and reality of what Jesus was facing there is stunning.  He knows what is about to transpire.  He knows that those whose feet He is about to wash are going to betray and abandon Him.  With that certain knowledge He gets up, girds Himself, and engages in menial service to those who in a few short hours will fail Him.

I was filleted.

The desperate weakness of my heart was in full display.  The group was not responding to me in any form that would even remotely compare to the disciples abandonment and betrayal of Christ, yet my feeble prayers for them were hindered.  I was and still am ashamed of the shallowness of heart revealed.

I would love to report that I have fully repented of the weakness of both my faith and the practice thereof, but that would be disingenuous.  My prayer increased.  But there were still vestiges of my poor reaction to their rebuff.

I am so grateful, so completely overcome with gratitude that our Lord does not respond to us the way I respond to others attitudes and actions toward me.  It has become one of my prayers that I become more like Him.  Like John said in John 3:30, it is a must for me, He must increase, I must decrease.  My only hope is for His life to fill and overwhelm mine.

Monday, April 10, 2017

No More Veil

Compare Exodus 40:3 and Matthew 27:51 (also Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45).  As we look forward to this Easter Sunday, it would be good to take some time to seriously and intentionally reflect on the import of Christ’s work for us.
No More Veil
From the time God began to reveal Himself to His chosen people, Israel; from the time He began to tabernacle among them in the detailed design He commanded, directed, and equipped them to build; there was a separation between God and His people.  There was a veil between Him and His people.  At first only Moses came to Him on their behalf.  Then a priest, but only once a year.

The access to Him was veiled, barred, close, but distant.  The people where shielded from the overwhelming majesty of His presence.

Christ’s death, which we remember this Friday, changed that, immediately, permanently.  The veil, the obstruction, the distance was torn in two, removed.  The presence of God, man’s relationship with Him was radically changed.

Whereas before, only the High Priest had access, once a year.  Now the way, John 14:6, was clear, wide open, available for anyone to enter.  No longer was a sacrifice necessary.  The ultimate sacrifice, the perfect sacrifice was made to clear the way.

We only have to choose to walk through the torn veil.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Help for the Pathetic (me)

I have said before here that I am not a great prayer warrior.  Prayer is hard for me.  I find myself in the company of the apostles in the garden with Christ, falling asleep after a few minutes of “deep” intercession.
Help for the Pathetic (me)
The good news, at least for me, is that as bad as I am I get some really excellent help.

I was in Psalm 5:1 the other day and I was struck by the word “groaning,” it immediately brought to mind Romans 8:26 – 27.  There we read that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with “groanings” to deep for words.  Note, by the way the reason the Spirit prays for us, “We do not know how to pray as we should.”  The encouraging thing here for me is that Paul includes himself in that category.  Paul the one whose prayer life has been the subject of really good books and whose prayers I have been using as a model to pray for others.

But there was more.  The Spirit prays for us, intercedes for us according to the will of God.  That led me to 1 John 5:14 - 15, which tells us that when we ask according to His will, He hears us, and we have that for which we ask.  So whatever it is that the Spirit is praying for us, is granted.

But there was more.  Paul ups the ante – well actually the Spirit does, look at 2 Peter 1:20 – 21 – in Romans 8:34, Paul tells us that in addition to the Spirit interceding for us, Christ is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.

Gives me hope.

I am bad at this.  But the assistance I am getting from both the Spirit and Christ – I find myself at a loss for words to express the magnitude of that incredible, priceless reality.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


John 14:6 is a passage you probably have memorized.  It is perhaps only slightly less well known than John 3:16.
As I read this the other day, it occurred to me that the import of this passage is that no matter what we are seeking in this life, Jesus is the fulfillment of that search.

If we are seeking purpose, He is the way.

If we are seeking reality, He is the truth.

If we are seeking meaning, fulfillment, health, healing, happiness, significance, He is the life.

The search is over, we should be about finding.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


What is the purpose of insulation?

Insulation reduces the ability of an atmosphere either inside or outside a building to escape out or penetrate in.  It isolates us, puts a barrier between us and a climate.  It allows us to control our surroundings and our immediate atmosphere.
That’s great.  Life is better with insulation.

The Christian life however is not better with insulation.
Christ commands us to abide in His Word.  John 8:31 – 32; John 15:7 are examples of this.  There are so many more that it would be more than a little redundant.  Both the old and new testaments are full of examples, Psalm 119 is a prime example.

But it seems that many of us are insulating ourselves from the Word of God.  How?  We use secondary sources rather than engage directly with God’s Word.
  • We need to honor those who share the Word with us, we should listen to good messages, but that message is not the Word of God.  Hopefully it is the result of the messenger’s personal engagement with the Word, but it may not be.  Some people who speak are sharing what they read in other secondary sources.  Either way, it is not direct involvement with the Word, there is a layer of insulation, not all of it is getting through.
  • Fill in the blank or other types of Bible study guides are really helpful.  I have used them and in some cases still do.  But in those studies someone else has directly engaged with the Scripture and is leading you through what they learned.  You are being steered in the direction of their conclusions both by the references they ask you to consult, and the questions they ask about those passages.  Again, a layer of insulation…
  • I am currently reading through two or three books that deal with Biblical topics.  If you could see my office you would note that I am literally surrounded by books and my Bible program has hundreds more in its library.  While I am helped by those books, they are, again, someone else’s work.  Someone else dug into the text and wrote what they saw.  I can benefit, but it is a layer of insulation between me and the text.
The point of all of this is that as good as some speakers, study guides, and Christian books may be, they cannot be our primary input.  They are not even a pale substitute for diving into the Word on our own to work through a verse, a chapter, a book, a topic, or a character.

The challenge is that many of us have not been shown how.  That is the purpose of this ministry.  If you need help with this, let me know.  I will help you take down the insulation.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


I have not written since the 10th because I have been living answered prayer, miracles.
I have mentioned earlier in this blog that our family has been facing several life and death issues in the past seven months.  One of our children experienced a miscarriage, my wife’s mother passed away, my father had a car wreck that fractured several ribs, had emergency surgery, was hospitalized, was hospitalized and passed away, while I was admitted into the same hospital.

Over all of that one of our children was diagnosed with cancer when 9 weeks pregnant.  All of these together have taken us through a significant school of prayer.  The lessons learned in that area are too numerous to name.

Last weekend child who was pregnant with cancer delivered a healthy baby girl, 9 weeks early, after undergoing 6 chemo treatments.  The child graded out in the NICU four weeks older than she was at birth.  Her weight was double that of other children born in the same conditions.

Overwhelmed, thankful does not capture our emotion.  We are still dealing with the cancer, but at a level that is less than we anticipated, another miracle.  There are still significant needs, we still need one more miracle.  We are trusting Him.

However, Daniel 3:17 – 18, is guiding us.  He is able and has provided us with several miracles in the course of this stretch.  We trust Him.  We beseech Him.  But, regardless, we are thankful for His grace, mercy, and engagement with us.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Just or Fair?

Just or Fair?

Amos 5:24 is one of 27 times that the Hebrew word that is rendered “justice” in our Bibles appears in the minor prophets (Hosea, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Zechariah, Malachi).
How would you define “just”?

A quick look at the web suggests that the current understanding of the Word is similar to the definition of “fair”.  Fair is a concept that is talked about in politics, social media, and a myriad of other venues.

However, God is never described as “fair.”  That is not the force of the Hebrew word.  A quick survey of all of the uses of מִשְׁפָּט (mispat) seem to suggest that the term means alignment with the law.  It is not fair in the sense that it is normally used today.  It means compliance to the law.

Since in the Bible God is the source of the Law, one could suggest that “just” is in alignment with His nature and character.

It is not a subjective concept.  However, fair, seems to be.  There is significant debate on what is fair.  However, one is either in compliance with a law or one is not.

There seems to be a distinct difference.  Which begs the question, “Why is justice, so central in these books?”

Friday, March 10, 2017

Passive Christianity

I have sat on this for about three weeks but it won’t go away.  It seems to me that many in our communities are passive Christians.  In this context a passive Christian would be one who is continually taking in information.  Continually perhaps, even regularly listening to messages, reading Christian literature, and attending Christian events.  In other words high levels of preprocessed input.
Passive Christianity
However, a passive Christian is not personally engaged in self-feeding on the Word of God.  They are committed to what the writer of Hebrews refers to as milk, Hebrews 5:11 – 14.

What is milk?  Predigested and processed protein.  Someone else has done the eating of the meat.  There are all kinds of Christian milk available.  Books about the Bible, fill in the blank studies, messages on mp3, blogs, studies on disk, all of which I have used and from which I have derived benefit.  However, that, according to Hebrews 5:11 – 14, should not be our primary or continual input.  We are supposed to grow past that.  We are supposed to graduate to meat.  (By the way this is repeated in 1 Corinthians 3:1 - 3.)


Practice.  We are to engage in the Word personally.  We move.  The word train here, is the Greek word from which we derive gymnasium.  We should be working out in the word.

But those in the Christian communities have to be equipped, they – well all of us – need personal trainers.  At the gym we need help to understand how to exercise properly.  We need that so we do not injure ourselves.  In our walk with God, we need people to equip us in how to study the Word for ourselves, that seems to be what Paul is suggesting in Ephesians 4:11 - 16.  In the New Testament we read that is exactly what the disciples did they showed people how.  They did not just tell them what.

All this brought the image above to mind.  In the movie Wall-E the people never moved.  They never ate solid food.  They were addicted to milk.  It was the robots that moved.  It was the robots that served.  The people didn’t even turn their heads to speak to one another, they used their media.

Perhaps it is time for some meat eating practice.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

More Parallels

Look at Job 35:16 and 1 Timothy 1:6 – 7.
More Parallels

In both cases the notion is that people are speaking without knowledge of what they speak.  If we are honest with ourselves we have all done that at one time or another.  I know that I have.  Or I speak beyond what I know making extensions to the topic for which I have no real knowledge.

Another, error I make is repeating what others have said or written without checking to see if they have used the data in a manner consistent with the intent of the author.

I had a seminal experience in seminary.  In one intercession class, we read two books by well-known Christian authors.  They were on opposite sides of a debate.  We looked at the sources they quoted as well as the passages they cited as support for their positions.

Both authors mishandled their source material; either misquoting or misrepresenting the context or import of their citation.  Both also, at some level, did not handle the Scripture carefully.

That experience emphasized to me that just because a well-known author has written and been published by a reputable publisher, does not mean that what they have written will withstand Biblical examination.  My conclusion was and is that I must lean on the Bible.  I can read and benefit from the thoughts of authors, and I read rather extensively.  But, I am responsible to validate what I read Biblically.  If I quote or use their material without first checking their work, I am in danger of opening my mouth emptily and multiplying words without knowledge…

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Page out of my journal noticing the parallels...
You ever notice that there are passages that are nearly parallel in their meaning and even in their vocabulary?

I noticed this the other day reading through 1 Corinthians 3:1 – 3.  It occurred to me that Hebrews 5:12 – 14 was nearly word for word the same.

It seems to me that when the messages of two passages are that close, we perhaps should pay attention.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Intentional Encouragement

Yesterday I shared some more on the concept of negative prep.  We are going through that at the moment, have been for some time.  I struggled with this last night in prayer.  I have learned over the past months that it is better to praise, to worship God, to seek Him rather than seek what He can do for me.  So a lot of what I did last evening was focused on that aspect of our relationship – there was also weeping.
Intentional Encouragement

This morning – and I cannot count the number of times this has happened – I opened my journal and recorded the current events that precipitated the struggle.  Then I wrote down the passages from the reading program I use, prayed Psalm 119:18 and started reading.

Job 36:13, was in the reading today.  That started me on a journey.  The way that works, normally, is the Lord brings passages to mind that support or extend the thought.  It happened again this morning.  The Lord took me to:
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • Hebrews 12:10 – 11
  • Ephesians 2:10
There were a couple of others that came to mind, Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 1:5, but the essence was in those first four passages.

When we are in trouble, stress, difficult circumstances, we have to cry out to the Lord.  He is in control, He brought those circumstances into our lives for a reason.  The promise, the reality has at least two component upon which we can absolutely depend.

First, He will not take us through circumstances that are beyond our ability to endure (as I am writing this more passages are coming to mind, Romans 5:3 – 5 and James 1:2 - 4).  Second, those circumstances, those difficulties have at least three purposes:
  1. To share His holiness.
  2. To produce the fruit of righteousness in our life.
  3. To equip us for the specific purpose He intends for our life.
By this I am not in any way diminishing the pain or difficulty of some of the trials.  No, they are difficult and often painful.  But, in the midst of those trials the anchor is that there is purposeful intention that is guided by the love, goodness, and faithfulness of our Lord.

It is to that I can confidently cling.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Negative Prep

In 1987 I was going through a difficult transition from a ministry that I loved into something that was as yet undefined.  It was a painful and traumatic time.  During that period I met with Bobby Clinton, the author of The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development.
Negative Prep
He listened to my story and in a few minutes shared what he called, "negative prep".  The idea is that God was pushing me out of the ministry I loved so that I would be able to do the next thing that He wanted me to do.  Over the past 30 years Clinton has been proven correct in spades.

There are Biblical examples of this.  One is in Exodus 1:12 – 13.  Israel grew so much under affliction that the Egyptians were in dread of them.  Further, the difficult labor that they were given prepared them for the rigors of the exodus.  It physically prepared them for the hardship of walking while carrying all that they had as they fled Egypt.

For the past seven months we have been experiencing a difficult time.  The details are not important.  What is important in the midst of any difficulty is to remember Bobby Clinton’s term, “negative prep,” and to hold tight to the One who is preparing us.

He is good.  He loves us.  Even when things seem the darkest, we can know that He is committed to our preparation for His purposes.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Him With Us

Note: There was a pretty significant typo in yesterday's post.  I listed the wrong passages in Luke.  I have fixed that if you want to check out what I meant to say...

You probably have Matthew 28:18 – 20 memorized.  You know that the promise that accompanies that command is the Lord will be with as we obey to the end of the age.  I my reading in the past month I have seen that theme thread through the Bible.
Him With Us

Look at:
Exodus 3:11 – 12
Mark 3:14
John 14:16
John 14:26
John 16:7 – 15

The implications seem to be that when He calls us or assigns us a task, ministry, etc.  He is there with us throughout.

Some of the tasks are difficult.  I am pretty sure that without His presence, I would fail.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Given the Words

There are three passages that connected for me a few weeks ago.  I don’t know how it works for you but when I am working through the Word if there is a passage that is really speaking to me it tends to remind me of other passages I have studied or read.
Given the Words
Sometimes I remember where they are.  Other times I have to search for them.  I use my Bible program to find them.  Often I do not remember the exact wording.  So I have to search for a phrase or combination of words.

In just about every case the effort reinforces the message that the Lord has pointed out in the original passage.

Here are the three, in order:

  • Exodus 4:11 – 13
  • Luke 12:11
  • Luke 21:12 – 15

You’ll note the last two are connected.  That is because Luke 12:11 was the passage I remembered, the other was a cross reference after I located the passage – it is always a good idea to look at the context…

I was overseas a while back.  I was in a country that is hostile to Christianity.  We had been called to the police station.  Walking over there I was thinking of this passage and wondering what hymns Paul and Silas were singing in Acts 16:25.  It turned out that we did not need hymns.  The police were “concerned for the American’s safety”.  They wanted money from the people who had rented the house to us.

Regardless, these passages remind me that I am completely dependent on the Lord for the words I say.  Not just when under duress.  I need to be trusting Him even when, perhaps more so, I am engaged in discussions with believers.  Whether it is about our walk with God or our service for Him together, I need to trust Him for His words, His leading, not my words or ideas.

That requires, more than anything that I know, to do what Paul exhorts us to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Too often I engage my tongue before my prayer is in gear.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Remember this Day

Look at Exodus 13:3 – 16.
Remember this Day

The Lord is commanding, exhorting, emphasizing to the nation of Israel that they are to remember that He, with a powerful hand, brought them out of slavery in Egypt.

Four times in those verses He reminds them of what He did, what they are supposed to remember.

They didn’t.

In a matter of days they were grumbling that He brought them out to die.

I tend to forget what God has done for me.  Latent Israeli tendencies I suppose.

He has done so much more for me.  He died for me.  He rose breaking the power of death for me.  He lavished His Spirit on me.  He has brought people into my life who have instructed and mentored me.  He has guided me and formed me for His purposes that He set for me before the foundation of the world.

Yet I forget.  Yet I grumble.  I need to remember.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Entrusted Stewardship

I have mentioned 1 Corinthians 9:17 once before.  It will withstand another look.
Entrusted Stewardship

In Chapter 9, one of the things Paul is sharing is his commitment to evangelism, sharing the gospel.  He views his responsibility for the gospel as a sacred trust.  In fact in 2 Timothy 2:2 he uses a financial term that describes trusts in describing what Timothy is to give to those whom he is equipping.

The great commission tells us that we are all, like Paul, entrusted with what Jesus taught the disciples.  That is validated by Christ’s prayer in John 17:20.  We share that trust that was given to Paul.

Paul was gifted.  He was at least gifted in teaching, exhorting, and probably as an evangelist,  My gifts include exhortation and leadership, but not evangelism.  But that does not absolve me of the responsibility, the trust, the requirement to share the gospel.

Regardless if I do it voluntarily or as a stewardship, it is still my assignment.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Who Hardened Whom?

If you read through Exodus 7 – 12 you will read several times that Pharaoh hardened his heart or his heart was hardened by the Lord (if you want specifics here is a list of the passages).
Who Hardened Whom?

Paul refers to this situation in Romans 9:17.  If we look at Exodus 7 – 12 from Pharaoh’s point of view.  He was calling the shots, he was the one who was hardening his heart.  Yet if we look at it from God’s perspective, according to the text both in Exodus 7 – 12 and Romans 9:17, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.


That God’s name would be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.

Proverbs 21:1 supports this as well.  God has control and can direct the heart of a king.

It struck me that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted by man’s choices.  He is not bound by the whims or decisions of man.  He can and does channel those thoughts and choices, as illustrated here with Pharaoh.

One application of this personally, is that I can rest in that truth.  When I am faced with a difficult leader, boss, person, situation, I can know for certain that God’s purpose in that situation cannot be stopped.  I also, based on 1 John 4:16 – 17 and Romans 8:28, can trust that the situation is a manifestation of God’s love and goodness.

That is an anchor for me in difficulty.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Corollary to Grace in the Midst

Yesterday we looked at Exodus 9:16 (I won’t rehearse the point).  There is more.
Corollary to Grace in the Midst

Look at Exodus 10:1 – 2, while it is the case that the purposes of God in all that He does that we experience, either good or bad, is to reveal His nature and character to the world.  Look at what He expects from us.

“…that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD”

We are expected to relate to our children and their children what we have seen God do in and for our lives.

Men that is primarily your responsibility.  Look at Deuteronomy 6:4 – 7, 20 – 21.

Incredible opportunity and assignment.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Grace in the Midst

Exodus 9:14 – 16 is just after the sixth plague that God sends on Egypt.  It wasn’t a good time to be an Egyptian.  Reading through this section at some level it was like reading Revelation 6 – 11 and 16.  God is raining significant difficulty down on His creation.
Grace in the Midst


In the midst of Exodus 9:14 – 16 there is purpose given that is stunning:

“…in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.”

One purpose of the plagues, the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls is to reveal God.  It is to draw people to Him, to demonstrate His power and nature.

Man is stubborn.  Committed to disobedience.  In Genesis 7, God wiped out the world and started over.  He promises in Genesis 8:21 He will never do that again until He creates the new heaven and the new earth, 2 Peter 3:10 – 16.

In the meantime, when He sends difficulty, the purpose is to demonstrate to us, this stubborn people, that it is He who is in control.  It is, as Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:15, a call to us to accept His grace.  To acknowledge our rebellion and come to Him and have our relationship restored.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Taken Away

The parable of the soils, or the sower, is one of my favorite passages.  It shows up in Matthew 13:2 – 23; Mark 4:3 – 20; and Luke 8:4 – 15.  My reading project this year took me through the Luke version a few days ago.
Taken Away

As many times as I have read, studied, and shared this parable, I saw something that I had not seen before.

In both Mark and Luke’s account they record Jesus following the soil/sower with the lamp under a bushel parable, Mark 4:21 – 25 and Luke 8:16 – 18.  There is a phrase in Luke that is repeated in both parables.  Look at the middle of Luke 8:12 and the end of Luke 8:18.

  • Luke 8:12 – “takes away the word from their heart”
  • Luke 8:18 – “even what he 1thinks he has shall be taken away from him.”

In verse 12, the devil takes away the word because the ground is hard.  In verse 18, the one who hides light has what he thinks he has taken away.  The repetition of that idea of the word and what one has taken away is not accidental.  Not accidental, that is, if we hold to what the Bible says about the Spirit inspiring every Scripture.

That association seems to indicate that hiding what we know has the same effect as the Word of God falling on hardened ground.

When I consider this, it is congruent with Christ’s commission to us is it not?  We are to both share all that we know of Him with others, Matthew 18:18 – 20, and we are to be about seeking His kingdom first, Matthew 6:33.

I missed that connection here.

I was too focused on one part of the passage and missed the connection in the context.  It reminds me that I need to continually look at the passages surrounding those I am studying or sharing with others.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

What’s the Rush

Ever find your mind wandering during the time you are supposed to be having your devotional?  Ever feel like you have to speed it up because you have more important things to do?
What’s the Rush
I have.

I find that the enemy knows me pretty well.  He knows how to distract me.  He does all that he can to keep me out of the Word and especially from thinking and praying through what I am reading.  He brings projects to mind.  He reminds me of stuff that I haven’t finished or need to get done.  He shares a great idea with me that has to be written down or I will forget it.

I find myself thinking I need to speed this up and get to what is really important.


You remember Mary and Martha in Luke 10:40 – 41.  Jesus told Martha what was important.  Hint, it wasn’t getting on with the day’s business.

Everyone I know is busy.  All of us have calendars that tend to get full – quickly.  We are always in a rush.  We are always connected – where is your cell phone?  Right?

In John 15:1 – 16 the word that is translated abide or remain in your Bible is repeated 11 times.  That may suggest it is important; don’t you think?  Observation, it takes time to abide.  One cannot be moving and remain.

It is counter to the times to slow down.  We are encouraged to do everything faster, more efficiently, and better.

Perhaps we need to reconsider Matthew 6:33 in light of the message of Luke 10:40 – 41 and John 15:1 – 16.