The Consequences of Compromise..

2 Chronicles 27-28, 2 Timothy 4

…preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 ESV

When Jotham took over the throne from his father, Uzziah, he was only 25-years old, but he would prove to be a king who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 27:1 ESV). He would become a powerful king, “because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 27:6 ESV). But sadly, he would refuse to enter the Temple of God, perhaps because his father, Uzziah, had been banned from entering it due to his leprosy. And while Jotham appears to have been a good and somewhat godly king, “the people still followed corrupt practices” (2 Chronicles 27:2 ESV). As king, he failed to lead the people well or influence them toward faithfulness to God. He compromised his God-given authority and allowed the sins of the people to go unchecked.

His son, Ahaz, would prove to be an even worse example as king. “He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord…but walked in the ways of the kings of Israel” (2 Chronicles 27:1-2 ESV). Ahaz took the sin of compromise to a whole new level, making altars to Baal and even burning his own sons as sacrifices to false gods. And even when God brought punishment on Him for his sins, allowing the Syrians, Israelites, Edomites and Philistines to attack and defeat Judah, Ahaz “became yet more faithless to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 28:22 ESV). Rather than turn back to God, he worshiped the gods of the nations who had defeated him, and locked the doors of the Temple of God.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The kings of Judah found themselves constantly surrounded by enemies. There were always threats to the security of their kingdom. Edomites, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Assyrians, and other nations were a constant presence and provided a real-life opportunity for the kings of Judah to either trust God and allow Him to provide protection, or to compromise their convictions and turn to someone or something else for deliverance. God had promised to be there for the people of Judah – if they would remain faithful and worship Him alone. But if they chose to worship other gods, He had vowed to punish them. He had warned the people of Israel that when they entered the Promised Land, they would need to completely eradicate the pagan nations that occupied the land. Otherwise, the people of God would be tempted to compromise their faith by worshiping the gods of their enemies. And that is exactly what happened. When faced with a difficulty, rather than trust God, Ahaz would turn to the Assyrians for help. When defeated by the Syrians, he would worship their gods rather than the one true God, justifying his actions by thinking, “because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me” (2 Chronicles 28:23 ESV). But his actions would prove futile, doing nothing more than provoking God to anger and bringing further judgment on himself. God would not tolerate his compromise. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

Compromise is always a danger for the people of God. We will always find ourselves surrounded and threatened by the enemies of God. That reality should never surprise us. But we need to recognize that our God is greater than our enemies and more powerful than any perceived threat on our existence. Ahaz could have placed his faith in God and allowed Him to provide deliverance in his time of need. He could have trusted God and watched as He miraculously stepped into his circumstances. But it was easier for Ahaz to compromise his convictions and place his faith elsewhere. Paul would warn Timothy that a time was coming when even Christians would compromise their convictions, rejecting sound teaching based on the Word of God, and seeking out teachers who would tell them what they want to hear. These people would go out of their way to find teachers and preachers willing to sell out the Word of God in order to peddle half-truths and outright lies that appealed to the personal passions and sinful desires of the masses. But Paul warned Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete and patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2 ESV). Paul wanted Timothy to stand firm and to fight the good fight, standing strong even while all those around him caved in and compromised their faith out of convenience and self-gratification. Paul wanted Timothy to keep the faith, always remembering that his reward was laid up for him in heaven – a crown of righteousness that would be awarded to him by Christ Himself. But many will fail to remain faithful. Many will give in to the temptation to compromise their faith. But even if we find ourselves standing alone and completely deserted by those who have claimed to be followers of Christ, we must take to heart the words of Paul. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Compromise is always a real possibility in my life. It is so much easier to give in than it is to stand firm. And my compromises can sometimes be very subtle and self-deceiving. I can find myself listening to the messages of this world and allowing them to make sense when, in reality, they stand diametrically opposed to the Word of God. When faced with difficulties, it is so easy to turn to someone or something else other than God. I can find myself placing my hope, faith, trust and confidence in the things of this world. Like Ahaz, I can convince myself that world's ways really do work. But when I start trusting the ways of this world, I am no longer trusting God. I am compromising my convictions and placing my hope in the wrong things. I want to fight the good fight. I want to finish the race. And while there will always be the temptation to sell out and blend in to the world around me, I pray that God will give me the strength to stand firm, keeping my eye on the prize: “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 ESV).

Father, help me remain true to You regardless of whatever trials and troubles may come into my life. Don't allow me to compromise my convictions or place my hope and trust in anything or anyone other than You. I can't remain faithful without Your help. I need Your Holy Spirit's strength to stay the course and to remain faithful to the end. Help me keep my eye on the prize and focused on the reward to come. Amen

The Power of Pride.

2 Chronicles 25-26, 2 Timothy 3

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT

Joash is replaced on the throne of Judah by his 25-year old son, Amaziah. We are told that this young man “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not with a whole heart” (2 Chronicles 25:2 ESV). He was not entirely devoted to God. Early on in his reign, he hired 100,000 mercenaries from Israel, paying them each 100 talents of silver. But he was warned by a man of God not to follow through with his plan, but to trust God instead. “Why should you supposed that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down” (2 Chronicles 25:8 ESV). Amaziah would listen to the warning and send the 100,000 Israelites away, and he would enjoy a great victory in battle. But God would also allow him to suffer the consequences of his ungodly alliance with Israel, when the mercenaries raided the unprotected cities of Judah while Amaziah was busy fighting the Edomites.

It doesn't take long to see what the chronicler meant when he wrote that Amaziah did not display whole-hearted devotion to God. “After Amaziah came from striking down the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir and set them up as his gods and worshiped them” (2 Chronicles 25:14 ESV). This young man turned his back on God, and when warned by the man of God, he refused to listen. In his pride and inflated self-worth, he would challenge the Israelites to battle, and ultimately lose, because God stood against him. Sadly, his son, Uzziah, would follow in his footsteps. He would start out well, doing “what was right in the eyes of the Lord,” but he would end poorly, marked by pride, arrogance, and a facade of religious fervor.

What does this passage reveal about God?

Both Amaziah and Uziah were to have been God's royal representatives. The king was to rule on God's behalf, mediating the sovereignty and power of God. He was answerable to God. He was to protect and lead the people on behalf of God and according to His will, not his own. But Amaziah and Uziah both became full of themselves. Their God-given power and authority went to their heads. They overstepped their bounds and determined that they knew better than God. As kings, they had been told by God to obey His law. “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel” ( Deuteronomy 17:18-20 ESV). Keeping God's law would prevent the king's heart from becoming “lifted up above his brothers.” In other words, the Word of God, coupled with a healthy fear of God, would keep the king's ego in check. But virtually every one of the kings of both Judah and Israel would struggle keeping this command of God. Their reigns would be marked by pride, disobedience, unfaithfulness, and the rejection of God. 

What does this passage reveal about man?

Uzziah was blessed by God. He benefited from having a spiritual mentor in the form of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. And we're toldthat “as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5 ESV). He become strong and powerful. He enjoyed God's help in battle. He amassed a powerful army and his fame spread throughout the land. But then we read these sobering words: “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the Lord his God and entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Chronicles 26:16 ESV). His success went to his head. He began to see himself as the sole source of his own power and prestige. Soon it was not enough for him to be king. Now he wanted to be priest. So he entered the temple of the Lord and attempted to take on the role of the priest by burning incense to God. But like Saul, the first king of Israel, he would learn that this was not God's will. God had established a divine order when it came to his kingdom. The king was to rule on behalf of God, the prophet was to speak on behalf of God, and the priest was to minister on behalf of God. And each was to act as a mediator between God and the covenant people. These three roles provided a kind of checks and balances in God's kingdom. We see repeatedly that when the king would stray, God would send His prophet to warn them and call them back. When the king sinned, he had to offer sacrifices for his sin through the priest of God. He could not do it on his own. But Uzziah decided that he was fully capable of performing both roles. Even when he was confronted by the priests with his open rebellion against God, rather than repent, he became angry. And God struck him with leprosy. His condition would end up separating him from the people of Judah, as he was forced to live in isolation for the rest of his life. But worse than that, he could no longer enter into the Temple of the Lord, separating Him from God and preventing him from being able to have his sins atoned for.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Paul warned Timothy that “in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1 ESV). He told him that, as time progressed, things were going to get progressively worse. These “last days” would be marked by a litany of ungodly characteristics. People will love themselves, money, materialism, and pleasure – all more than they love God. Through their lifestyle, they will actually scoff at God; but will also put on a facade that they are actually religious. They will have the appearance of godliness, but deny the One who could provide the power to make it real in their lives. Paul describes a people who claim to be religious, but who are self-centered and narcissistic. Their world will revolve around themselves and their own desires. They will have all the appearances of godliness, but lack any of the power that should come with it. Uzziah attempted to burn incense in the Temple. Burning incense was a God-ordained activity, but Uzziah was doing it in an ungodly manner. And doing godly things in an ungodly manner will never bring honor from God. He is never pleased with outward attempts at godliness that are not based on obedience to His will and in keeping with His Word. Going through the religious motions means nothing to God. He wants our hearts – our whole hearts. Uzziah's main problem was that he was not whole-hearted in his devotion to God. He loved himself. He loved his power. He loved his influence. He became prideful and his pride would lead to his own destruction. The king was to keep a copy of the Law of God with him at all times, reading it daily and obeying it faithfully. I am to keep God's Word with me at all times. Paul reminds me, “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 competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV). God's Word is the greatest antidote to pride. It reminds us of His power, holiness, and righteousness, but also of His love, mercy, and amazing grace.

Father, self-love is an ever-present reality in my life. I can so easily become infatuated with my own self-worth and take credit for my own successes. But I have to constantly be reminded that You are the source of not only my existence, but of my salvation. I am nothing without You. I can do nothing without You. Please protect me from becoming like those whom Paul describes. I don't want to repeat the mistakes of Amaziah and Uzziah. May I learn to love and serve You whole-heartedly and willingly all the days of my life. Amen

The Power of Influence.

2 Chronicles 23-24, 2 Timothy

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22 ESV

For six years Joash, the lone surviving son of King Ahaziah, was hidden in the temple of God by Jehoiada the priest. During those six years, Joash was under the influence of Jehoiada and his wife. He would have been raised to love and respect God. He would have been taught the laws and commands of God. He would have been protected not only from the threats of his own grandmother, Athaliah, the queen, but also the evil influences of the world around him. At the age of seven, Joash was presented to the people as their king. Knowing that there was still a possible threat on his life, Jehoiada arranged for a permanent security force to protect the young king. He positioned armed Levites in the temple. He provided the captains of the army of Judah with spears and shields. “And he set all the people as a guard for the king, every man with his weapon in his hand…” (2 Chronicles 23:10 ESV). During the early years of King Joash's reign, his mentor, Jehoiada would have a strong influence over his life. Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people with the king, that they would be the Lord's people. He arranged for the destruction of the house of Baal. He even had Athaliah, the queen, executed. And we're told that “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest” (2 Chronicles 24:2 ESV). Joash would go on to restore the house of the Lord, the very place where he had found refuse for six years as a young boy. He would reinstate the temple tax and reinstitute the sacrificial system. But then we read, “But Jehoiada grew old and full of days, and died” (2 Chronicles 24:15 ESV). Joash lost his mentor. And it wouldn't take long for him to fall under the influence of others. “Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols” (2 Chronicles 24:17 ESV). In practically no time at all, Joash would find himself negatively influenced by his peers and falling away from the godly instruction of his mentor, Jehoiada. And the results would be devastating to both Joash and his kingdom.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had miraculously provided Jehoiada to protect the life of Joash so that he could become the next king of Judah. He was the only surviving descendant of David who would qualify to sit on the throne of Judah. It was essential that Joash live so that God could keep His covenant promise to David. “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16 ESV). It was essential that God orchestrate the preservation of Joash because the ultimate fulfillment of His promise to David was about far more than just an earthly successor to the throne of David. God was going to send His own Son, in human flesh, born into the line of David, to become the ultimate and final King of Israel. When God promised David, “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13 ESV), He was referring both to Solomon, the son of David, and to Jesus, the coming Messiah. So there was far more to God's promise than an earthly king sitting on a throne in Jerusalem. God was talking about the Savior of the world. So God preserved Joash, and one of the ways He did this was by providing this young man with a protector and spiritual mentor. God arranged for Joash's life to be spared and his future to be secured by the influence of one single godly man. Paul would prove to have the same kind of influence on the life of Timothy. He would play a major role in Timothy's spiritual development, providing him with much-needed wisdom and sound counsel that would protect this young man from the evil influences of the world around him. Joash needed Jehoiada in his life. Timothy needed Paul in his life. We all need spiritual mentors and influencers in our lives. And God has a way of providing them all along the way.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We are not meant to live isolated, independent lives. Joash was only as strong as his relationship to his god-given mentor. As long as he listed to Jehoiada, he prospered. But when Jehoiada disappeared off the scene, Joash fell prey to other influences. He sought other counsel. And it would prove to be his undoing. Paul knew that Timothy would be prone to this same problem, so he encouraged and warned him. He told him to find his strength in the grace of God. He reminded Timothy that success in the Christian life required total dependence upon God for all things. He challenged Timothy to see his role as that of a soldier in God's army, and as a good soldier, he needed to be willing to suffer for the cause of Christ. He would have to remain unencumbered by the distractions of life. He would need to make his goal in life to please his commanding officer. And he would need to remain diligent and hardworking. Timothy was young. He was susceptible to wrong influences. He would find himself easily distracted by the cares of this world and the passions of his own sin nature. So Paul told him to “do you best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the world of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV). Paul's greatest desire for Timothy was his ongoing sanctification. He wanted to see Timothy mature in his faith and grow in his likeness to Christ. He wanted to see Timothy develop an increasing dependence upon God, so that when the day came that Paul was no longer able to be there for Timothy, he would be able to stand firm, strengthened by his own personal relationship with God. Paul wanted Timothy to be a “vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

We all need godly mentors in our lives. But the goal of those mentors should be to point us to greater and greater dependence upon God. It may have been that Jehoiada spent too much time making Joash dependent upon him, when he should have been building Joash's dependence upon God. Paul knew that he had influence over Timothy, but he would use that influence to make Timothy more dependent upon God. He knew that Timothy's future success and ultimate spiritual health was going to be reliant upon his relationship with God. As spiritual mentors, we need to remember that we are always to point those under our care to God. We are to encourage them to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace” (2 Timothy 2:22 ESV). We cannot provide those things for them. We can model them. But only God can make them possible. We must make sure that those under our care are students of the Word of God, “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV). We must go out of our way to ensure that those we mentor understand that their sanctification is God's doing, not ours. We cannot make anyone holy. That is completely up to God. Making anyone dependent upon us is a dangerous mistake to make. But we must always understand that we have incredible influence over certain individuals who God has placed in our lives. We must teach them, encourage them, model Christ-likeness for them, and point them to God for His grace, mercy, love and life-transforming power. 

Father, I want to be a positive influence in the lives of others. I want to point people to You, not me. I want to mentor well and model Christ-likeness effectively. Never let me forget that I have the power to influence others for good or for bad. I want to live in such a way that my life is a constant influence on others, showing them their need for Christ and their total dependence upon You for everything in their lives. Amen

God's Grand, Unstoppable Plan.

2 Chronicles 21-22, 2 Timothy 1

Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever. 2 Chronicles 21:7 ESV

Jehoshaphat died and left the throne to his son, Jehoram. But while Jehoshaphat had been a good king who tried walk in faithful obedience to His God, Jehoram would prove to have inherited little of his father's religious fervor or love for the things of God. And in a way, Jehoshaphat was to blame for this outcome. We're told that Jehoshapat “walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel” (2 Chronicles 17:3-4 ESV). Back that doesn't mean that Jehoshaphat always made the right decision. In chapter 18, we get some insight into a particular decision that would have long-term ramifications. It simply says, “Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor, and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab” (2 Chronicles 18:1 ESV). Sounds innocent enough, until you pick up the story in chapter 21. There we read that Jehoram, Jehoshaphat's son, “walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done” (2 Chronicles 21:6 ESV). Why? What influenced this young man to go down that path when his father had been so faithful to God? The text tells us. “For the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 21:6 ESV). That marriage alliance had been between Jehoram and King Ahab's daughter, and the evil influence of her family would be devastating. So much so, that when Jehoram died, his son Ahaziah would take his place on the throne of Judah. But Ahaziah's mother, Athaliah, was none other than the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. So when Ahaziah ends up being eliminated by God for his apostasy, Athaliah kills off all the legal heirs to the throne and crowns herself queen. {Now when Athaliah the mother of Azariah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family of the house of Judah” (2 Chronicles 22:10 ESV). What should strike you in reading this account is that in doing this, Athaliah had wiped out any possible heir to the throne of David who might make possible God's promise to place an descendant of David on the throne whose kingdom would last forever.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But God was at work behind the scenes. “But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king's sons who were about to be put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom” (2 Chronicles 22:11 ESV). God would use this young girl to spare the life of the only heir to the throne of David. She was the wife of Jehoiada the priest and she and her husband would hide Joash in the house of God for six years while Athaliah reigned in Judah. At this point in the story, there is no Davidic king sitting on the throne of Judah. But all is not lost. God is not done. While things look bleak, God is in complete control of the situation. It is important to remember that the chronicler is writing to Jews who have returned to Judah from their captivity in Babylon, and they also found themselves without a Davidic king on the throne. In fact, they had not king at all. They had to place their faith and hope in the promise of God that one day a descendant of David would once again rule from the city of David. In spite of all the sin and spiritual sickness infecting the people of Israel, God was not done yet. Even during the days of Jehoram, when he allowed himself to be influenced by his wife and ended up doing what was evil in God's sight, we are told,  “Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever” (2 Chronicles 21:7 ESV). God had made a promise and He was going to keep His promise. Paul would later write to Timothy, reminding him, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV). In the books of Numbers we are told, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19 ESV). God is a covenant-keeping God who cannot and will not break His promises.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man cannot thwart the plans and promises of God. While Athaliah thought she was in complete control of the situation, she was painfully unaware of what God was doing behind the scenes. When her son, Ahaziah had been king and had made an alliance with Jehoram, the king of Israel, little did he know that his decision would prove deadly. When God brought judgment against the Jehoram and his house, Ahaziah just happened to be paying a visit. He would end up being executed along with Jehoram. The chronicler makes it clear that this was God's doing. “But it was ordained by God that the downfall of Ahaziah should come about through his going to visit Joram” (2 Chronicles 22:7 ESV). Over and over again we see men trying to derail the plans of God. They attempt to make their own plans and determine their own fate, but they, like so many others, failed to understand that God is sovereign over all. Solomon wrote, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The apostle Paul knew full well that his life was completely in the control of God. While Paul had planned his life and was pursuing a career path that included the persecution of those who called themselves Christians, God had another plan. He had ordained that Paul would be his spokesman, taking the good news regarding Jesus Christ to the Gentile world. God Himself said of Paul, “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15 ESV). And Paul would later remind Timothy, “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, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:8-9 ESV). While Paul was writing this letter having just been released from house arrest in Rome, he knew that his life was in the hands of God, and that God was working out a plan that was eternal in nature – from “before the ages began.” Paul had no problem accepting his imprisonment, because he knew that God was in control. He also knew that God was faithful and He was keeping the promise He had made to David. Jesus Christ was the one for whom the Jews had long waited. He was the Messiah, the King of Israel. And Paul knew that God's plan was still not yet complete. “…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 Timothy 1:12 ESV). “His confidence lay in the person of God. He believed that God is faithful. God would protect something that Paul had placed with God for His protection and preserve that until the day he would see Christ face to face at the Rapture or death” (Dr. Thomas L. Constable, Notes On Timothy, 2007 Edition).

Father, You are faithful and true. You are powerful and fully capable of accomplishing all You have promised. Help me rest in Your unwavering commitment to keep Your Word. You are not done yet. You have promises yet to fulfill. There are aspects of Your plan that have yet to happen. But they will. Because You promised and You never break Your Word. Amen

A Final Word of Warning.

 2 Timothy 4

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. – 2 Timothy 4:2 NLT

This was all serious business for Paul. He wasn't mincing words or beating around the bush. The proclamation of the Gospel and the desire to one day present those under his care as mature in Christ drove Paul's efforts. He lived and worked as if God was watching his every move. Paul answered to a higher authority, namely God Himself, who was relentless in His desire to have His Son's saving work proclaimed to the world and His Word carefully and accurately taught to the church. So Paul viewed his work with a certain soberness and seriousness, and he attempted to pass that attitude on to his young disciple, Timothy. As he wrapped up his second letter to this young man, he warned him to remember that God was watching. The righteous Judge of the universe was observing his every move and would one day pass judgment on all that he had done. So Paul encourages him to "preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching" (2 Timothy 4:2 NLT). In other words, he was to stay the course, do his job, maintain his focus and not lose sight of his primary responsibility as a shepherd of the flock of Jesus Christ.

These words of warning were necessary because Paul knew the truth about the world in which he and Timothy both lived. Paul was neither a pessimist or a wide-eyed optimist. He was a realist. He knew that mankind, apart from Christ, was on a downward trajectory and that any efforts to spread the Gospel were going to be met with apathy and even antagonism. One of the primary problems Timothy would face would be resistance to the Gospel message – not so much in the form of outright defiance as in the more subtle, but no-less-insidious form of apathy. In every generation, those who attempt to proclaim the truth will be faced with the constant temptation to twist its content in order to make it more sensational, palatable, and successful. The desire for larger audiences and a greater impact has always been the siren call of ministry. The danger comes when, in an effort to attract more people, we begin to alter the truth to make it more appealing. Paul warned Timothy, "a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths" (2 Timothy 4:2-3 NLT).

Packed pews, popular Podcasts and best-selling books are not the litmus tests for successful ministry. The temptation will always exist to judge our effectiveness based on numbers rather than transformed lives. The key for Paul was the faithful proclamation of the Word of God, regardless of whether people wanted to hear it or not. The truth is not always popular. Our job is not to tell people what they want to hear; providing them with false hope and ourselves with a false sense of accomplishment. Timothy was to preach the Word, patiently correcting, rebuking and encouraging. Telling people what they want to hear will never help them get where they need to go.

This entire letter has been filled with admonitions regarding faithfulness. Paul wanted Timothy to remain faithful to his calling, faithful to the Word, faithful to his flock, faithful to Christ and faithful to the end – just as Paul himself had been. "As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful" (2 Timothy 5:6-7 NLT). Paul wasn't bragging. He was simply encouraging Timothy to consider his life as an example of faithful service. Paul didn't measure his success based on numbers, but on his own determination to remain faithful to his calling. He was willing to leave the results up to God. Because he had proclaimed the Gospel, preached the truth and prepared the people of God by faithfully and accurately teaching them the Word of God – he could face the future with confidence. He could eagerly look forward to the return of Christ and fearlessly face God knowing he had faithfully fulfilled his calling to the best of his ability.

Paul's life had not been an easy one. It had been filled with trials and difficulties of all kinds. But he was content and confident that he had lived his life well. He knew that God had been a constant part of his life over the years. "But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death.Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen" (2 Timothy 4:17-18 NLT). His life had been a joint effort between himself and God. He had faithfully played his part and he knew that God had been beside him every step of the way – even in his darkest moments. But his greatest confidence was that God was going to faithfully take him home. His hope was in the future, not the present. His motivation was eternal, not temporal. His ultimate reward was in heaven, not on earth. As believers, we will not be held accountable for the results of our efforts on behalf of God. God will not measure our effectiveness based on our own human achievements, but on our faithfulness to Him. Faithfulness requires dependence on God. The Old Testament prophets were rarely successful – if we judge their efforts based on numbers of converts or the popularity of their message. But they were successful in God's eyes, because they were faithful to their calling. They did what they had been called to do. They remained faithful regardless of the circumstances or the apparent failure of their message. Their reward was of a heavenly nature, not an earthly one. They had to remain faithful to their calling and trust God for the outcome. That is one of the hardest things for us to do as believers. We are results-oriented. We are trained to judge success based on visible results. Too often in the church, nickles, noses, and numbers are the criteria we use to measure success. And in our efforts to produce those results we can find ourselves tickling ears, twisting the truth, and compromising our faithfulness. Oh that we might hear and heed the call of Paul today. "Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching."

Father, may we be a people of faith and faithfulness. It is easy to come to faith in Christ, because it is completely provided for us by Him. We simply have to believe. But to live in faithfulness is difficult. To keep our eyes focused on the future reality of our faith is hard for us to do. We get distracted by the cares of this world and we measure our success by the wrong standards. You have called us to live faithful lives based on a reliance on Your Word and a dependence upon Your power. Don't let us compromise Your message in an attempt to get better results. Don't let us rely on our own efforts in the hopes of producing greater success. Keep us faithful to You.  Amen.

Practical and Profitable.

2 Timothy 3:10-17

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT

As far as Paul was concerned, the Word of God was a non-negotiable necessity for the people of God. An understanding of God's Word was essential for anyone who wanted to live the life Christ died to make possible. Our salvation was accomplished solely through the efforts of Christ on the cross, with nothing done on our part to earn or deserve it. But our sanctification, or continued transformation into the likeness of Christ is ongoing and dependent upon the wisdom and guidance found in the Word of God, as well as the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God.

Paul reminded his young disciple, "But you, Timothy, certainly know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance. You know how much persecution and suffering I have endured. You know all about how I was persecuted in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra — but the Lord rescued me from all of it" (2 Timothy 3:10-11 NLT). Timothy was well-acquainted with Paul's life and had watched his mentor model the Christian life integrity, faith and purpose. He knew that Paul was a student of the Scriptures and applied them daily to his own life and ministry. Paul was intimately familiar with the character of God as revealed in the Word of God. The Gospel message was not something new or novel, but simply an extension of the redemptive plan that God had revealed all throughout the writings of Moses and the prophets. It was Paul's familiarity with the Old Testament Scriptures that gave him such a remarkable understanding of just who Jesus really was and the significance of what His death, burial and resurrection had accomplished. It was the Scriptures that kept Paul from misinterpreting Christ's mission or giving it his own spin, as many of the false teachers had been doing. It was Paul's faithfulness to the Word of God that resulted in much of the persecution he endured on behalf of God. And Paul made it clear that persecution and suffering were not just reserved for him alone. He told Timothy, "Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12 NLT). Persecution and sanctification are inseparable in the life of the believer. The life of true godliness will always attract the attention of the enemy and result in spiritual attack. If there is one thing that Satan hates more than salvation, it is sanctification. An individual who surrenders his or her life to Christ, but then lives as if nothing has really happened, is no threat to the enemy. But should that individual begin to spend time in God's Word and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their life, Satan will sit up and take notice. He will turn up the heat. He will do everything in his power to derail their efforts and distract their attention to other things. Satan's desire is to keep believers ignorant of God's Word and so distracted by the things of this world, that we become ignorant and impotent. Our knowledge of the truth as revealed in the Word of God, is the greatest threat to the father of lies. As long as he can keep us out of the Word, he can mislead us with tantalizing and plausible-sounding half-truths.

But Paul reminds Timothy that the Scriptures are the inspired words of God, designed to teach us what is really true. It is the Word of God that tells us the truth about who God is and why the world is in the sorry state it's in. The Word of God tells us the truth about sin and the reason we need a Savior. It paints a painfully clear picture of our condition and shows us the only remedy. It is through the Scriptures that we learn right and wrong, truth from falsehood, and fact from fiction. The Scriptures comfort, convict, and correct. They guide and enlighten, inspire and encourage. They equip and instruct us how to live godly lives. As the people of God, we are dependent upon the Word of God for our spiritual well-being. The Scriptures are to be non-optional in the life of the believer. But Bible knowledge is not to be our ultimate goal. Knowledge of the Scriptures is a means to an end. "God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17 NLT). The Word of God is intended to reveal the will of God so that we might accomplish the work of God. Satan doesn't fear our knowledge of Scripture. He fears when we apply it to our lives and allow it to transform us into the likeness of Christ.

Father, Your Word is essential to living the Christian life. But it can be so easy to treat it as an optional part of day. Too often we leave it out and then wonder why we don't sense Your power and feel a nagging need to know Your will. Make us a people of the Word. Draw us into to it daily. But don't just let us study it to increase our own knowledge and impress others. Help us to apply its truths to our daily lives and live in obedience to its commands.  Amen.


 2 Timothy 3:1-9

They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! – 2 Timothy 3:5 NLT

These nine verses pack a powerful punch to the stomach. In them, Paul provides Timothy with a prophetic glimpse into the future state of the world. He refers to this time as the "last days." By this, Paul meant the days preceding the return of Christ for His bride, the Church. It is a reference to the final days that will lead up to the rapture of the Church. In a sense, the last days are not relegated to a specific length of time, but refer to an era or epoch of time. Paul believed he was living in the last days. He had warned the believers living in Ephesus, "So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days" (Ephesians 5:15-16 NLT).

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul had written, "Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons" (1 Timothy 4:1 NLT). In essence, the last days began with the resurrection of Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church age. But there is an ever-increasing degree of apostasy and spiritual apathy taking place. Things are not getting better. They are getting worse. And this period of time will climax with the return of Christ for the Church, commonly referred to as the Rapture. In the meantime, the society in which we live will continue to exhibit an increasing apathy toward spiritual things and an ever-growing antagonism toward God. Paul gives Timothy 19 specific characteristics of this age, and it isn't hard to see that they are alive and well in our day. People will be narcissistic and this self-absorption will be accompanied by an unhealthy love of money, something Paul had warned Timothy about repeatedly. But not only will people love themselves, they will boast about their own accomplishments, exhibiting a pride and arrogance based on their own self-importance. In reality, they will worship themselves rather than God. They will be abusive to others. Children will reject parental authority. A spirit of dissatisfaction will lead to a growing ungratefulness. Nothing will be considered holy anymore. People will be heartless and callous. They will be unforgiving and quick to slander others with their words. A lack of self-control will permeate society, resulting in brutality and a hatred for what is good and right. People will be quick to betray one another, headstrong, swollen with conceit, and love pleasure more than they love God. But the most damning characteristic of this age will be the pseudo-spirituality that permeates society. Paul says, "They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly" (2 Timothy 4:5 NLT). The last days will be marked by spirituality, but it will be a sham and a show. There will be all kinds of talk about spiritual things, but those who claim to be religious will reject the one thing that can truly transform their lives and make them godly: The saving work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word of God. People will express belief in Christ, but refuse His deity. They will claim to be Christians, but deny the resurrection. They will say they believe in God, but live as if He doesn't exist; worshiping pleasure and self instead of Him. Paul warns Timothy to "Stay away from people like that!" (2 Timothy 4:5 NLT).

Evidently, Paul believed that these kinds of people existed even in Ephesus and were part of the local body of believers there. These kinds of people prey on the spiritually weak and needy. They show up as teachers, but what they teach denies the truth of God and offers a counterfeit faith. They infiltrate the church, offering up their own opinions as the truth of God. They sound great, but their words are counterfeit and contradictory to Scripture. They present half-truths. They mix a little bit of Scripture with a lot of conjecture, producing a deadly cocktail of deceptive lies that lead to godlessness, not godliness. These nine verses are a dead-on description of the age in which we live. They describe a world in which self-love is rampant and pseudo-spirituality is ubiquitous. But true godliness is impossible apart from God. Spirituality is the by-product of the Holy Spirit of God. It cannot be manufactured by man or replicated apart from a relationship with the Spirit of God who indwells those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Fake faith is not saving faith. Religious activity will never make anyone right with God. Going to church will not help anyone get to heaven. Paul wanted Timothy to know that the truth of the Gospel message was going to be increasingly more important as time wore on. Love of money, pleasure and self were going to make it more and more difficult for people to love God. Apart from a recognition of their own sin and their need for a Savior, people would never escape the dead-end trajectory marked by the last days. The truth of God's Word is the antidote to the difficult days ahead. As bad as things may get, the Good News is still the answer to what ails mankind.

Father, there is no doubt that we are living in the last days. We are surrounded by all the things that Paul lists. And some of us struggle with them in our own lives. Open our eyes and help us to see that the Good News is the answer. Give us courage to teach it, preach it and live it out in our own lives so that the world can see that true spirituality is available only through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Help us live out what we say we believe. May we be a refreshing alternative to the characteristics listed in these verses. Amen.

Ready, Willing and Faithful.

2 Timothy 2:15-26

If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. – 2 Timothy 2:21 NLT

As stated earlier, a big part of Paul's letter to Timothy focused on the topic of faithfulness – God's faithfulness to man and man's faithfulness to God. Here Paul reminded Timothy to be a "good worker" – someone who could be depended upon to do the right thing and to do it well. Rather than seek the approval of men, Timothy was to work diligently and faithfully, so that one day he might stand before God and receive His approval, having no cause for shame or regret. That meant that Timothy had to live his life from an eternal perspective, recognizing that his future reward was far more significant than any earthly praise or promotion he might receive.

Paul put a high priority on Timothy's ability to accurately handle the teaching of the truth of God's Word. Like a dedicated and diligent worker, he must take painstaking precautions in teaching and defending the truth. He could not afford to give it his own spin or place on it his own perspective. The Word of God was not to be subjective and open to interpretation. God had an intended meaning and purpose behind it, and a faithful worker would take the time to understand what God was saying and teach accordingly. This was essential for Timothy to know because he found himself surrounded by false teachers who were twisting the truth of God and, unwittingly, leading people into ungodliness. Paul mentioned two of these people by name, and clearly articulated their crime: They had been teaching that the resurrection of the dead had already taken place. They had misunderstood the truth regarding the future reality of the bodily resurrection of the dead and spiritualized it to mean that believers were already resurrected with Christ and that all of the blessings that come with salvation were to be experienced in this life. Rather than focus of a future of the resurrection and the reality of heaven, they were teaching that you could have "Your Best Life Now." It would seem that this was the first incarnation of the prosperity gospel. These two men, through a misunderstanding of the truth of God, were wrongly encouraging believers to see the Gospel as nothing more than a quick fix to all of life's problems. This kind of talk was worthless and foolish, leading only to godless behavior. But a faithful worker would remain faithful to God's truth, teaching only what He intended, regardless of what others might want to hear.

Paul quotes from two Old Testament passages in order to assure Timothy that God knows His own. He recognizes His own children and one of the distinguishing characteristics of a child of God is godly, not godless, behavior. If we belong to Him, our lives should reflect that reality. Paul used the metaphor of household vessels to further convey the idea that within the church there are faithful and unfaithful Christians. Paul stated that in a wealthy home there could be found vessels of all kinds, some made of gold and silver, and some made of wood and clay. The more expensive vessels were reserved for special occasions, while the more common vessels were for everyday use. But in either case, purity and cleanliness were prerequisites for usefulness. A dirty gold pitcher was of no more use than a contaminated clay pot. The key to usefulness was cleanliness. "If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work" (2 Timothy 2:21 NLT). The specialness of the utensil was not based on the material from which it was made, but on its purity. Those within the church who saw themselves as gold vessels because of their position as teachers, but who falsely proclaimed the word of truth, were actually defiled and unusable by God.

Purity meant everything, so Paul warned Timothy, "Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts" (2 Timothy 2:22 NLT). Timothy was to pursue a life of righteousness, faithfulness, love and peace, and surround himself with those who shared the same desire. Paul was not telling Timothy to avoid the false teachers like a plague or read them the riot act, but to "gently instruct those who oppose the truth" (2 Timothy 2:25 NLT). As Timothy pursued a life of godliness and remained faithful to the truth of God, he would be equipped to handle all those, both inside and outside of the church, who stood in the way of the Gospel and its message. Timothy's faithfulness would equip him to deal with the unfaithful and the faithless in a loving and Christlike way.

Father, if there was ever a time when faithfulness to the truth of Your Word was needed, it is now. There is so much falsehood and subjective information being taught as truth. Even within the church, there are those who misunderstand and misapply Your Word so that it ends up leading Your people astray. The Gospel has been altered to such a degree that it no longer looks like the same message that Paul preached. Call Your people back to the truth of Your Word. May we learn to be faithful to Your truth and not some version of our own. May we be pure vessels, ready for You to use to pour out Your message of hope, love and mercy to the world around us. Amen.

Passing the Mantle.

2 Timothy 2:1-14

Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them.. – 2 Timothy 2:3-4 NLT

Paul was a man who was passionate about his calling and totally realistic about his situation. He was in prison in Jerusalem yet again, facing trial and the distinct possibility of losing his life. And while Paul felt like he had much work yet to accomplish for the Kingdom of God, he had to recognize that his days on this earth were numbered. So he began to focus his attention on men like Timothy, attempting to prepare and train them to carry on the work of spreading the Gospel and caring for the growing family of God. Paul encouraged Timothy to take all that he had him teach and pass it on to others. He wanted Timothy to find other "trustworthy people" with whom he could share the Gospel message and the truths regarding life as a Christ-follower.

The ministry to which Timothy had been called was not going to be easy. He had to have the mindset of a soldier, complete with a sense of dedication and a determination to persevere under trial, seeing his work as a form of spiritual warfare. Like a soldier, Timothy's life was going to require focus and a freedom from distraction, even from the good things of life. "Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them" (2 Timothy 2:4 NLT). Like Paul, Timothy answered to a higher authority, the Sovereign God of the universe. He was enlisted into Kingdom service by God Himself and was to remain faithful to his King and his calling at all times. Paul reminded Timothy that a runner in a race must compete according to the rules if he wants to win. He can't bend the rules or shorten the course in an attempt to gain victory unfairly or unethically. Winning is impossible without obedience, just as fruitfulness is impossible with diligent, faithful work. It is the farmer who works hard all year long who gets to enjoy the fruit of his labor at harvest time.

At this point in his letter, Paul made an interesting shift from Timothy and his responsibilities, to the life of Jesus. He refers to the Lord as Jesus Christ, the only place in all of his letters where he arranged His names in that order. It would seem that he was attempting to emphasize the humanity of Christ. He was Jesus the man and the Messiah. Paul tells Timothy, "Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach" (2 Timothy 2:8 NLT). Jesus was a descendant of David and heir to the throne of Israel. He was also the Messiah of Israel. And yet He had to suffer and die. In order for Jesus to be raised from the dead, He first had to go through the agony and pain of the crucifixion. He had to endure separation from His Heavenly Father. And it was the reality of Jesus' suffering, death, and ultimate resurrection that formed the basis for the Good News that Paul preached. It was the reason for which he suffered and for which he was willing to endure anything in order for its message to "bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen" (2 Timothy 2:10 NLT). In referring to "those God has chosen," the "elect" in other translations, it would seem that Paul is calling Timothy to endure hardship in order that those who have come to faith in Christ might grow in Christ. In other words, Paul is charging Timothy to see to it that the body of Christ is cared for and that he sees to its spiritual growth.

Paul included what appears to be a poem or song that may have been part of a hymn in the early church. It carried a message that called believers in Christ to live lives of faithfulness.

If we die with him,     we will also live with him. If we endure hardship,     we will reign with him. If we deny him,     he will deny us. If we are unfaithful,     he remains faithful,     for he cannot deny who he is. (2 Timothy 2:11-13 NLT)

It is a reminder to live our lives in light of the reality of the resurrection. In salvation, our old nature was crucified with Christ. But one day, we will also experience resurrection and eternal life with Him. This is the same point Paul made in his letter to the Romans. "And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him." (Romans 6:8-9 NLT). Paul includes a sobering warning to remain faithful. Christ's faithfulness is unwavering and is not based on our own faithfulness. He is unchanging and His faithfulness is part of His character as God. So, in light of Christ's consistent and constant faithfulness to man, Paul challenged Timothy to live his life faithfully in return. Not only that, he was to call the people of God to faithfulness as well. Denial or rejection of Christ was unacceptable. Unfaithfulness was unthinkable. In view of all that Christ had done – His coming to earth as a man, His suffering at the hands of man, His death on behalf of man, and His resurrection to make possible the restoration of man – Paul saw no other response than a life of faithful, loving, grateful service to God in return.

Father, this life is not easy. It sometimes requires difficulty and suffering. But Your Son suffered on my behalf. He died so that I might live. He was raised again so that I might know that there is life beyond the one I experience on this earth. Help me keep my focus on eternity. Help me remember the unfailing faithfulness of Christ so that I might live faithfully in this life. Amen.

The Faithfulness of God.

2 Timothy 1

For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 1:9 NLT

Nero was on the throne in Rome. Paul was in prison yet again, after having enjoyed a brief time of freedom. Every Christian was persona non grata having been falsely accused by Nero for the burning of Rome in 62 A.D. Timothy, Paul's young disciples was more than likely still ministering in Ephesus when this letter arrived. Unlike many of Paul's other letters, this one is deeply personal rather than theological. Paul's intent was to encourage Timothy in his work as a minister of the Gospel, but also to persuade his young friend to come visit him in Rome. He greatly desired to see Timothy again, referring to him as "his beloved child (1:2). "I long to see you again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy when we are together again" (2 Timothy 1:4 NLT). There is an intimacy to this letter that makes it like no other that Paul wrote.

The basic theme of Paul's letter to Timothy was faithfulness, beginning with the faithfulness of God. This was what kept Paul going, in spite of his less-than-pleasant circumstances. "And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to himuntil the day of his return" (2 Timothy 1:11-12 NLT). Paul was confident in his calling, but he was also confident in the promise of Christ's return. God would be faithful to fulfill His promise by sending back His Son to gather His people and take them to be with Him. But this letter was also a reminder to Timothy of Paul's own faithfulness and a call to Timothy to remain faithful as well. Paul would also stress the need for all followers of Christ to remain faithful in whatever circumstance of situation they encountered.

Paul started out by commending Timothy's faith which had been passed on to him by his mother and grandmother. He encouraged Timothy to "fan the flame" of the spiritual gift given to him at his ordination. Paul wanted Timothy to actively use and perfect his God-given ability. There was no time to relax or to grow complacent. Timothy's gift had not left him, but a gift unused becomes wasted and ineffective. He was not to be timid or fearful, but bold in his efforts for the Gospel, living a life marked by power, love, and self-discipline. Under the current circumstances, it would have been easy for Timothy to grow weary, give up and throw in the towel. His faith was under test, and Paul wanted him to pass with flying colors. But to do so, he would have to remember his faith, recall and rely on his Spiritual gift, refuse to be ashamed of the Gospel message, and be ready and willing to suffer for its sake. Paul reminded Timothy, "That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to himuntil the day of his return" (2 Timothy 1:12 NLT). Paul's faith was in God. He fully trusted his Heavenly Father to accomplish His will through him, regardless of the seemingly negative circumstances in which Paul found himself. Paul would not recant his faith in God because God remained faithful to him. He wanted Timothy to stay the course and remain strong, keeping his faith focused on the faithfulness of God.

Paul called Timothy to carefully guard the truth that had been entrusted to him. He had been given the privilege of being a minister and messenger of the Gospel. Finding himself in difficult circumstances and under constant pressure to give up, it would have been easy for Timothy to throw in the towel and compromise his faith and convictions. He was a young man facing extreme conditions and under tremendous pressure to keep the church pure, while modeling a life of faithfulness and moral integrity. Living as a Christian in a hostile world was never intended to be easy. It requires that we remain focused on the faithfulness of God, never forgetting that He has not yet completely His plan of redemption. Our salvation, while completely paid for by Christ, is not yet completed. This world is not our final destination. Yet, if we're not careful, we will tend to think that this is all there is, and expect all of God's blessings to show up in this life. Paul was in prison. His circumstances were far from perfect, but his faith was unwavering. He knew that his suffering was all part of God's divine plan, and that there was a rhyme and reason to it all. Faith in the faithfulness of God is what will give us the strength and endurance to weather the storms of life. He is not done yet. We can fully trust Him to finish what He has begun. Our salvation will one day be completed with our glorification. We will be fully and completely transformed into the likeness of Christ, experiencing for the first time what it means to be fully sinless and totally righteous. That future promise should motivate us to endure the difficulties of this life. The Good News of Jesus Christ reminds us of the reality of new life now, and eternal life to come. "And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News" (2 Timothy 1:10 NLT).

Father, You are faithful. You can be trusted to complete what You have begun. And while things around me may appear difficult and formidable, You are in no way limited by my circumstances. Your plan is perfect and Your power to bring it about is limitless. Help me to live a life of faith based on Your unwavering faithfulness. Keep me focused on You and not my circumstances. Amen.

Filled Up. Poured Out.

2 Timothy 4

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. – Vs 6-7

What an attitude! Here was Paul, imprisoned in Rome, facing trial and the final days of his life, yet he manages to give Timothy words of encouragement and make this incredible declaration regarding the confident completion of his life's task. Rather than whine about his circumstances or complain about his life being cut short, Paul sees his situation as an offering to God. He is being "poured out" as a sacrifice to God and pleased to do so. In fact, the offering to which he refers is the drink offering found in Leviticus 23:10-14. It was part of the First Fruits offering. The drink offering consisted of about two pints of unmixed wine, which was poured on the grain offering as a symbol of joy. Paul seems to be saying that he is joyful to have his life poured out in the service of God.

But Paul speaks not only with a sense of joy, but with a sense of accomplishment. He has accomplished the assignment given to him by the Lord on the road to Damascus. He has taken the gospel to the Gentiles. He has planted churches, encouraged believers, debated the Judaizers, established leaders, taught sound doctrine, unified Jewish and Gentile believers, and established a solid foundation for the future spread of the church. And he can say, "I have finished the course, I have kept the faith."

How about you and me? Can we say the same thing? Do we view our lives as a drink offering being poured out for God? If we knew these were our last days on earth, could we confidently say that we have fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith? Or would there still be things left undone? Would we feel regret for having set wrong priorities for our lives?

I am encouraged to follow Paul's example. To increasingly see my role here on this planet as one of unselfish service to God. I do not here to make money, seek comfort, enjoy pleasure, pursue my own agenda, or satisfy my own desires. I am a servant of the living God who He has chosen to use for His service, but too often I find myself distracted by the things of this world. I get wrapped in the affairs of everyday life. I get sidetracked by the cares and concerns that crowd in and push aside the agenda He has for me. But Paul encourages me to refocus. He reminds me that I am here for something far greater than my own self-satisfaction. God has given me a job to do. May He find me faithful to do it until Christ returns or until He calls me home.

Father, I want to finish the course well. I want to keep the faith. I want to be faithful to the task you have given me. Forgive me for getting distracted and off course. Forgive me for setting my own agenda for my life. Help me see my life as a drink offering, joyfully poured out each and every day for Your service. Show me how to die to myself and my own will, and live joyfully and faithfully within Yours. Help me to remember that "in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day." Amen

God’s Will Made Possible Through God’s Word.

2 Timothy 3

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. – Vs 16-17

The Word of God is more than just a blueprint for living or some kind of religious self-help book. Yet that is how many of us treat it. We go to it to find helpful tips on everything from raising kids to personal finances. We pull verses out of context and twist the meaning of passages to get the answer we're looking for or a confirmation for whatever it is we've decided to do. We fail to recognize that is the revelation of God Himself. It is a multifaceted story of God's unfolding relationship with mankind. It is powerful and potentially life-changing. It is so much more than we give it credit for.

For teaching

There is no doubt that the Bible is a powerful teaching tool. But it is more than just an academic textbook or book of religious doctrines or dogma. It is a divinely inspired document that is filled with the teachings of God. It reveals who God is and His relationship with mankind. It teaches about holiness and sin, righteousness and immorality, condemnation and salvation. In its pages we are shown the truth about the meaning of life and the reality of eternity. And because it is divinely inspired, it is the only book that can miraculously teach us new insights and provide us with new wisdom each time we read it. The Holy Spirit can take a familiar passage and open our eyes to new applications that up until that moment had remained hidden from us. That is why it is an adventure to read and study it every day, because it never grows old and it's truths are never exhausted. It is the living Word of God.

For reproof

One of the reasons the Bible can be hard to read is that it can be hard on our sin. The Greek word translated in these verses as "reproof" carries the idea of exposing someone's sin in order to bring correction. And that's exactly what happens when we read the Word. It shines a light on the sin in our life in order that we see it. But it not only shows us our sin, it gives us proof of it and convicts us about it, which should lead us to confession regarding it. The light of God's Word shines into the darkest recesses of our lives to expose the hidden sins that we have grown far too comfortable with. But we can't confess what we can't see, and we can't be forgiven of what don't confess. Thank God for the exposing, convicting power of His Word.

For correction

With conviction should come correction. As we see our sin, we should want to change our relationship to that sin. Which is exactly what the Word of God helps us to do. It not only reveals our sinfulness, but shows us how to be restored to a right relationship with God. It gives us the steps we need to take in order to improve our conduct and character. God doesn't just leave us in a state of hopeless conviction and guilt, but provides a way out, a way of change and transformation. It is about all about restoration and reconciliation. Which should make us want to read it more and more.

For training in righteousness

The Greek word used here is a multifaceted one that carries the idea of training a child. It includes "the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment) It also includes the training and care of the body" (NET Bible Commentary). God's Word touches every area of our life and utilizes a range of techniques to accomplish its goal of righteousness in our lives. It encourages, commands, admonishes, corrects, rebukes, comforts, etc. It gives us just what we need right when we need it. It is personal, loving, and highly practical. And it always leads us to a life of increasing righteousness.

Adequate and equipped

God's Word has an objective: The equipping of His people for service. It is designed to prepare us and mold us into the kind of servants He can use for His work in this world. That is why the Word is so important in our lives. We can't live without it and we can't serve without it. We cannot become what He has called us to become without it. So making the Word of God a regular part of our lives should be a non-negotiable for every believer who is serious about his walk with God. It is as necessary to our faith as oxygen is to life. God speaks to us through His Word. He transforms us through His Word. He prepares us through His Word. So that we might be ready to do His will.

Father, thank You for Your Word. It is a light that shines into the dark corners of my life exposing hidden sin and allowing me to confess that sin to You so that You can forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness. Give me an increasing hunger for Your Word so that I might be a man of God, adequate and equipped to do Your will. Amen

Vessel For Honor.

2 Timothy 2

…he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. – Vs 21

That's my greatest desire. To be a vessel that God sets aside for His use. I want to be useful to the Master. But Paul says I must that for this to happen, I must cleanse myself of these things. What "things" is he talking about? Well, from a cursory look at the preceding verses it would appear that he has several things in mind.

No worldly entanglement

Back in verse 4, Paul warns Timothy not to entangle himself "in the affairs of everyday life." In other words, he must make following Christ his highest calling and commitment. Like a good soldier, he cannot let the normal cares of life distract him from his duty. He must remain dedicated to his task and his Commander. Yet how easy it is to allow the cares of this world to take us away from the more important task at hand. We are constantly tempted to abandon our post and become enmeshed in the seemingly more important matters of life. Paul says we are to purge or cleanse ourselves of this tendency.

Compete according to the rules

In verse 5, Paul warns Timothy to live his life according to the rules or the standards established by God. This is not about keeping the Law, but about living life by God's standards, not my own or the world's. I must make the Word and God's will my standard in all things. But the temptation for all of us is to bend the rules or to even ignore them altogether. We can think that we are somehow above God's standards or that they don't really apply to us. We cannot afford to play fast and loose with the requirements that God has placed on each of us as His servants. So we must cleanse ourselves of any desire to "play" according to our own rules.

Don't get into senseless debates over words

In verse 14, Paul warns his young disciple that it is worthless to get into meaningless debates over words. Instead, he is to accurately handle the word of truth. The phrase Paul uses, "to wrangle about words," is one word in the Greek. It is the word, logomacheo, and it means to wrangle about empty and trifling matters. How easy it is for us to get distracted from the Word of God by getting off on empty and meaningless debates, controversies, and arguments over issues that don't really matter. The enemy loves to see the people of God waste their time arguing over issues that don't really have that much to do with the Word of God. So he distracts us into debates over mindless points of obscure doctrine and dogma. In the meantime, we are failing to accurately handle the word of truth. So Paul says we are to cleanse ourselves from this kind of unprofitable activity.

Avoid worldly and empty chatter

Paul really hits a nerve in verse 16. This is an area in which most of us struggle, because we are surrounded by it. From the news to the entertainment media, we are bombarded with worldly talk. The Greek word Paul uses is bebelos and it means "profane, unhallowed, or common." It is the talk of this world. It is vain, empty, meaningless, and highly distracting because it fills our ears and keeps us from hearing what God wants us to hear. But the dangerous part is that it distracts us by entertaining us. It appears harmless and fun, but while subtly taking our minds off the things of God. Paul refers to it as "empty chatter." He uses the Greek word kenophonia which means "discussion of vain and useless matters." So instead of discussing those things that lead to godliness, we waste our time discussing everything from American Idol to the stock market. We talk about our bracket for March Madness and our favorite TV show. We discuss our vacation plans or our latest purchase. But the empty chatter Paul is referring to can also include "religious" talk that is not based on a sound Biblical foundation, but is the result of the vain speculation of men. Paul says we are to cleanse ourselves of this kind of talk.

Abstain from wickedness

Finally, Paul tells Timothy to literally "flee" or "run away from" wickedness. That word wickedness means "unrighteousness of heart and life." We are to make every effort to avoid and turn away from anything that would cause our hearts and lives to become unrighteousness. It doesn't mean to stop being wicked, but to distance yourself from those things that lead to a life and a lifestyle of unrighteousness. And what makes this one particularly hard is that we are literally surrounded by these kinds of things. They are all around us. They come into our homes through the TV, Internet, and magazines. Our children are exposed to them through their peers, movies, and music. But Paul says we are to cleanse ourselves of these kinds of things. Why?

Because when we do, we will be vessels for honor. The kind of vessels that God sets apart for His purposes. He will use us to accomplish His will in our world. He will pour Himself into us and out of us in order to impact this world with His message of hope and life transformation. He will make us useful, instead of useless. He will make us vessels for honor, instead of dishonor. He will set us apart, make us holy, so that we might be used in His eternal plan to redeem a lost world to Himself. Now that's the way I want to spend my life.

Father, show me what I need to do to cleanse myself from the impact and influence of the world. I want to be a vessel for honor. I want to be used by You. But I know that I have been influenced by this world and have allowed to become entangled by the things of this world. I spend too much time worrying about things that don't matter, discussing things that are unimportant, pursuing things that can't deliver. Cleanse me. Make me useful. Use me. Amen.

Limitless Power.

2 Timothy 1

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control – Vs 7 (ESV)

Here is the great apostle Paul writing to his son in the faith, Timothy. He refers to him as "my beloved child" (Vs 1). And in the first chapter of this letter Paul encourages his young disciple, telling him to "fan into flame the gift of God" (Vs 6 ) and to "not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord" (Vs 8). Paul is in prison in Rome, awaiting trial and anticipating his ultimate death. Yet in spite of his less-than-perfect circumstances, Paul is calling young Timothy to a life of perseverance for the gospel even in the face of suffering.

No Fear

Paul tells Timothy that fear is not an option for a faithful servant of God. The word he uses for fear is deilia in the Greek. It refers to one who flees from battle, who is a coward or deserter.  It's the picture of a soldier who abandons his post, letting his fear get the best of him. Not exactly how a follower of Christ should be characterized. But Paul knew that this would be a temptation for Timothy, just like it is for all of us. So he reminds Timothy that he has within him the Holy Spirit of God, and as a result, he has access to inexhaustable power, love, and self-control. Left to our own devices, we will always run in the face of trials and suffering. We will fear and flee. But God has equipped us with a new source of power. The Greek word for power is dumanis and it means "strength power, ability." It is where we get our word for dynamite. We have an incredible power available to us that is beyond anything we can produce. It is divine power. So there is no reason for us to fear and flee.


But we also have love at our disposal. Not the kind of love the world obsesses with, but agape love. Selfless, sacrificial, lay-it-all-on-the-line love that doesn't expect anything in return. It's the kind of love we can't produce in our own strength, but that can only come from the Holy Spirit who lives within us.


Finally, Paul tells Timothy that the Holy Spirit makes available a new source for self-control and self-discipline. The Greek word he uses is sophronismos and it means "an admonishing or calling to soundness of mind, to moderation and self-control." It is the ability to process your circumstances objectively, seeing them from God's perspective instead of your own limited point of view. And as a result, you do the right thing. Instead of fleeing, your practice self-control and remain right where you are, ready to watch God work in your, around you, and through you. Instead of panicking, you pause and reflect on just how great your God is. Instead of running, you rest in the knowledge that your God is bigger than your biggest problem.

Like Timothy, you and I have been given a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. So we can stand firm against the greatest of odds. We can show love even to those who hate us. We can practice self-control and moderation even when we feel tempted tosatisfy our own selfish desires. The Christian walk is not an easy one. And no one knew that better than Paul. He knew what Timothy was going to be facing in the days ahead. So he gently, but firmly reminded him to never forget the incredible resource that was within him. And that's a message we all need to hear.

Father, think You for placing Your Spirit within me. Thank you for providing everything I need to live the life You've called me to live. Help me to remember that I have within me an inexhaustable sourceof power,  love and self-control. So there is not reason for me to fear, flee, faint, or falter in my walk with You. Keep me dependent on You every day of my life. Amen