Wednesday, October 31, 2012

2 Timothy 3:5

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 3:5

Paul continues to talk about humanity: having only an appearance of godliness, refusing to consider the true power of godliness.  Then Paul gives a hard command.  Timothy is to avoid people who display these characteristics.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul mentions that human beings are fully capable of putting on the display of godliness.  We can act any way we want.  We can make a show for a time about anything.  We can give an appearance of faith, belief, and humbleness before God.  I know, because I’ve been there and done that.  I’ve had people fooled about thinking that there was a deep faith within me when really I was living a rather spiritually stagnant life.  Above all else, human beings are masterful deceivers.  We can appear however we want – even if it is different than what we really are on the inside.

Have you ever been fake?  Have you ever been fake about your faith?  Have you ever given people the idea that you really care about God and His ways when in reality you were more interested in your life and your agenda?  What does that process feel like in the end?

Second Thought:
The last thing on Paul’s list is “refusing to consider the true power of godliness.”  The verb there is pretty neat. It can mean everything from “refusing to consider,” to “refusing to think about,” to “refusing to value,” to “disregard.”  The danger of people is that while we can appear godly, it is easy to deny the true power of godliness.  What is the true power of godliness?  Is it the ability to call down lightning from heaven and smite one’s enemies?  Certainly not – although that might occasionally be cool.  No, the true power of the Gospel and the true power of godliness is evoking change in who we are.  The true power of godliness is to move us from chasing our own dreams to chasing God’s agenda.  That is the very thing that many people in this world absolutely deny – even many people in the church.  People say that they believe God exists.  They say that they believe Jesus died on the cross.  But do they actually care what difference it makes in their life?  The true followers of God do; the fake ones don’t.

Are you a true follower?  Is God actively taking your life and changing your life from the pursuit of your own desires to the pursuit of God’s desires?  Do you disregard this power in your life?  What steps can you take to ensure that you don’t disregard what God wants to do in your life?

Third Thought:
Timothy is to avoid such people.  At first, it might sound like Paul is telling Timothy to avoid all people.  After all, as we’ve studied this list of the bad traits of humanity, can’t we all say that we embody most of these traits to some extent?  Thus, Paul must not really be saying to avoid everyone who has these traits.  Rather, what Paul is saying is that Timothy should avoid people who display these traits and don’t seem to care about it.  In a sense, this point is directly connected to the second thought of this blog post.  It’s one thing to struggle with our humanity.  That is what God asks us to do!  But we should avoid people who are not interested in struggle against their humanity.

Who do you know in your life that is actively struggling against their humanity?  Who do you know in your life that is not struggling against their humanity?  Do you know any people who should be struggling against their humanity because they claim to know God but they aren’t actually letting God have any impact upon their life?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 3:6-7

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2 Timothy 3:4

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 3:4

Paul continues his barrage against human nature: betrayers, reckless, arrogant enough to be demented, lovers of physical pleasure, not lovers of God

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Betrayer.*  This word brings up all kinds of images.  A betrayer is someone who acts out of sheer treachery.  They are someone who doesn’t care about the big picture; they only care about having their way or “being on the winning side.”  The betrayer is someone who goes against prior established beliefs.  Betrayal is so bad because it not only damages the community around a person but it also erodes the person from within.

Think about a famous person in history (besides Judas) who is known for betraying someone or something.  What effect did they have on the community around them?  What effect did their actions have on their own mental, spiritual, and emotional health?  Have you ever betrayed someone or something?  What was the result?

Second Thought:
Paul says that human beings are reckless and lovers of physical pleasure.  So often that is indeed true with us.  We as a race have a habit of not considering consequences.  We have a habit of not considering consequences even more when the amount of physical pleasure increases.  We enjoy pleasure.  We dislike prudence and living a controlled life.

What are the pleasures in life that are your Achilles’ Heel?  What are the things in this world that can cause you to be reckless?  What can you do with this information that you are able to discern about yourself?

Third Thought:
Paul talks about how we are also not innately lovers of God and we are arrogant to the point of being out of our mind.  We don’t inherently love God.  We love ourselves.  We love pleasure.  We love money.  We love many things, but we inherently love the stuff that benefits us.  We don’t love God largely because we are too busy focusing on ourselves.  This naturally brings about arrogance.  The more we think about what we want, the more we occupy the center of our world.  The more we occupy the center of our world, the less we have space for the love of God.  We become demented – wrapped up in our own thoughts.

Do you really believe that we are unable to love God on our own?  If that’s true, then how is it that we can actually love God?  What (or who) is responsible for giving us the ability to love God and stop focusing on ourselves so much?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 3:5

*You might have heard my soapbox in the past about why I don’t say “on the night in which He was betrayed…” at the beginning of the Communion portion of the service.  {Instead I say, “on the night in which He was handed over.”}  The Greek word in this passage of 2 Timothy is “prodotes” (προδότης), whereas the word mistakenly translated as betrayed in 1 Corinthians 11:23 is “paradidomi” (παραδίδωμι).  These words are not the same.  In the Greek, paradidomi literally means to give across or to hand over.  The work of Judas was most about handing Jesus over to the Jews so God’s will could be done.

Monday, October 29, 2012

2 Timothy 3:3

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 3:3

Paul speaks a little more against human nature: lacking love for others, unwilling to be reconciled to others, slanderous, lacking self-control, untamed, not loving good.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
The first word I want to pick out of that list is “slanderous.”  The Greek word for slanderous is “diabolos.”  Yes, it is the root word for one of our names of Satan: Diablo.  It is also related to the word diabolical.  It literally means to spread slander.  However, it can just as easily be translated as spreading gossip.  Yes, that’s right.  When we gossip about people, we slander them.  From a religious perspective, this action is so offensive to community that we took the action and applied it directly to a name for Satan.  Satan is the chief slanderer (Diablo).  When we gossip and therefore spread slander, we are doing the very work of the hands of Satan.

Does this understanding of the word help you also understand why gossip/slander is such a problem among humanity?  Have you ever gossiped?  What was the outcome of the gossip?

Second Thought:
I’d like to go back now and pick up the two words that appear before the word “slanderer.”  Paul says that human nature lacks an inherent love for others as well as having a nature that resists being reconciled to others.  I see this all over the place in this world – and it ties in quite nicely with the concept of being a self-monger.  As proof, ask yourself this question: if you see a poor person on the street, how likely are you to reach into your wallet and buy the person a meal without asking anything in return?  Or ask yourself another question while thinking back to high school and middle school: when you saw a kid being bullied and made fun of by a whole crowd, how likely were you to stand up against the crowd and protect the one being made fun of?  Human nature wants to protect itself far more than it wants to reach out in love towards another.  This leads into the next word, which has to do with reconciliation.  In your experience, is it easier to stay angry at someone who has offended you or is it easier to genuinely forgive them and not hold any sort of grudge at all?  You see?  Human nature really is a self-monger.  We want to preserve ourselves.  We want to hold onto our anger against others.  So often with us, it all comes down to what “I” want.

Are these words true about you?  When are you most likely to display a genuine lack of love for the other person?  When are you most likely to hold a grudge and refuse to be reconciled?  How does each of these qualities help destroy community?

Third Thought:
Paul also talks about human beings as lacking self-control and being untamed.  Human beings are passionate people – and in this respect I think we are regressing.  Look at a typical television commercial.  How many commercials do you see that are based on your inner passion or your inner desires?  How many commercials are based on using logic or reasoning?  The same is true about social media.  How many times do you see a Facebook post or a tweet that shows a person posted out of impulse without being able to control their reaction and think?  Or think about dating.  How many couples have you heard about that ended up doing things they didn’t plan on doing simply because they didn’t have what it takes to actually display self-control?  I think Paul is right.  When it comes to our hearts and our inner passion, we are largely untamed.  We need help to tame us.  It takes much work.

Do you see people around you who are interested in taming their inner passions?  Do you see people who are more interested in following their inner passion?  What’s the danger of living a life that is “untamed?”  How do we become tamed?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 3:4

Sunday, October 28, 2012

2 Timothy 3:2

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 3:2

Paul them tells Timothy that people love themselves, they love money, and they are proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and unholy.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Lovers of themselves.  Self-monger.  Conceited.  Looking out for number one.  That’s many ways to say the same thing.  But they are all true.  Human beings are naturally more interested in what is going on in our own life than what they can do for others.  Just look at most advertising, most Facebook posts, and most Twitter tweets.  Human beings are inherently self-interested.  We come out of the womb expecting other people to feed us, change us, and all around care for our needs.  Most of childhood and teenager life is spent wanting the people in our life to appease our needs.  We can be different, but we have to be trained.  It’s a ton of work.  It’s just not natural.  We have to want to be anything except the self-monger because we naturally are the self-monger.

How bad do you have the self-monger bug?  Do you think of yourself as a lover of self?  What can you do about it?

Second Thought:
Lover of money.  Greedy.  Avaricious.  Storing up treasure in this world.  We do love our money, don’t we?  We do love our bank accounts.  We love to spend money in some of the most frivolous ways.  So often we don’t even think about how we spend our money or horde it.  We don’t think about all the people in the world that have nothing.  We don’t think about all the people who don’t have access to drinkable (safe) water.  We don’t think about the kids who can’t even afford a book.  I’m not saying we can solve all the problems of the world.  But we are greedy people in our hearts.

Do you believe money is the answer to everything?  Why do you think we enjoy saving our money and storing up our treasures?  Why do you think we enjoy spending money on some of the most pointless of things when there is so much need in the world?

Third Thought:
Proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and unholy.  More dark attributes from the dark side of humanity.  What’s really sad is just how many of these attributes can be rooted to our self-monger.  We are proud because we focus on our own gifts and successes.  We are abusive because we only care about getting our way and not about how we hurt others.  We are disobedient because we want our own way.  We are ungrateful because the more we focus on ourselves the more we adopt an entitlement perspective.  We are unholy because we’d rather focus on ourselves than focus on God.  At the heart of this list is … well … ourselves.

Which attributes on this list do you struggle with the most?  What do you think the answer to the problems of this list is?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 3:3

Saturday, October 27, 2012

2 Timothy 3:1

Note:  For the next few days we’re going to take this passage one verse at a time so that we can focus on the very specific details.

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 3:1

Paul tells Timothy that there will be difficulties in the “last days.”

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
The Biblical idea of the “last days” is an intriguing one.  Many people read those words to imply an “end times” or “rapture” mentality.  In other words, they naturally assume that Paul is talking about the last few days, months, or years before Christ returns.  While this is possible, keep in mind that Paul wrote this letter as a help to Timothy, who lived over 1,900 years ago.  If Paul was genuinely speaking about only the last few years before Christ returns, then Paul missed the mark quite badly! 

What is more likely is that when Paul uses the term “last days” he is referring to a time period in history.  To put it simply, the world began with creation.  Then, there were the “first days,” which would be the days from creation until Christ.  Then there were the days of Christ, when God brought salvation to the world.  Now we are in the “last days,” which are the days between Christ’s first and second coming.  The “last days” will be followed by judgment.  I don’t believe Paul is speaking of a small time when he writes to Timothy but rather the whole time between Christ’s comings.

How does our understanding of the words “last days” change the way we interpret this passage?  What is the danger that comes by thinking of this passage as only applying to the final days/months/years right before Jesus Christ appears a second time?

Second Thought:
Paul says that there will be difficulty.  For this thought, I’d like to speak about physical difficulty.  We have known for a long time that people enjoy physically persecuting Christians.  Christian kids get bullied when they go to school and portray their faith.  Christian adults are thrown into prison all over the world.  Some Christians are even killed on account of their faith.  It is not too much to think that Paul is thinking physically when he speaks of difficulties to come.

What kind of physical persecution have you experienced in this life?  What kind of physical persecution have you heard about?  Are there any kinds of physical persecutions that you don’t think that you could endure?

Third Thought:
It could also be that Paul is speaking about emotional/mental/spiritual persecutions.  We have all heard about the science/religion debates – where some scientists seem to make it their goal to persecute the spiritual/emotional/mental process of faith with us.  It has been long known that academic institutions are one of the greatest places of religious persecution simply because academic institutions are based on the model of free thought (which is not necessarily a bad thing, mind you).  The world is quite good at providing “entertainments” to distract us from the rigors of a proper faith life.  Thus, it is also possible to think that Paul can be speaking of this kind of persecution when he talks about difficulties in the last days.

What kind of spiritual/mental/emotional persecutions do you experience?  What kind of persecutions have you heard others talk about?  What are the easiest and most difficult spiritual/mental/emotional difficulties for you to endure?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 3:2

Friday, October 26, 2012

2 Timothy 2:24-26

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Those who serve the Lord must not be quarrelsome.  Instead they should be kind, looking for opportunities to preach and teach, able to endure evil, and willing to correct others gently.  Spiritual servants must be this way in order to help God’s opponents see why turning to God is important so that they may know truth and escape the snare of Satan and his agenda in this world.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul reminds Timothy that our primary work on this planet is to be ambassadors for God and His ways.  People need to see models representing why turning to God is important.  When we act like the world yet confess belief in God, why would anyone want to add God to their life?  Yet, we when act different (better, even!) than the world, then we give the world a reason to consider turning to God.  Being God’s ambassador to family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc should be our primary concern in this world.

How good are you at being God’s representative?  In what ways do you think you represent God well?  In what qualities could you stand to improve how well you represent God?

Second Thought:
Some of the qualities that we should obtain are kindness and the ability to correct others gently.  Both of these aspects deal with our ability to interact with others.  In fact, much of both of these abilities are about whether or not we see other people as an opportunity to be served or to serve.  We know what Jesus’ answer on this point is.  (See Matthew 20:28)

Do we (I or you) see other people as an avenue to get our will or as an avenue to get God’s will done?  In what ways does this question really come back to the concept of the self-monger?

Third Thought:
The other two qualities that Paul asserts as important in this section are: looking for ways to teach/preach and looking for ways to endure evil.  These qualities directly relate to our spirituality.  If we are genuinely pursuing God’s ways, then we should be prepared to endure evil and focus on God.  If we are truly pursuing God’s ways we should realize just how much he wants us to talk about our faith to others in a meaningful way.  Again the point seems to come down to one question.

Are we following our own agenda or are we humbling ourselves to follow God’s agenda?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 3:1

Thursday, October 25, 2012

2 Timothy 2:22-23

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 2:22-23

Paul tells Timothy to flee the lust of immaturity.  Timothy is to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace instead.  Paul reminds Timothy that all those who call on the Lord with a pure heart seek after the same thing.  Paul instructs Timothy to stay away from “foolish” and “ignorant” discussions. Paul reminds Timothy that such discussions breed quarrels.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Flee the lust of immaturity.  For the record, lust isn’t just a sexual word.  Lust means anything that your heart desires in a way that is morally wrong.  I might lust after someone else’s possessions and end up stealing.  I might lust after freshly made brownies and end up being gluttonous.  I might lust after being entertained by my TV and not finish the work I was supposed to do in the evening.  I might lust after having a perfect home and car and end up being guilty of having too much personal debt.  Paul pulls no punches.  He says that we are to flee lust, because it is rooted in immaturity since lust only thinks about what we want now rather than what’s good for us in the long run.

What things in your life do you have after which you lust?  What steps can you take to help you deal with your lust after those things?  Do you think it is easy or hard to ask other people to help you deal with the things after which you lust?

Second Thought:
Timothy is to seek righteousness, faith, love, and peace.  In a nutshell, Timothy is to seek true community.  Furthermore, Paul reminds Timothy that this is the goal of all who call upon the Lord with pure intentions.  The sign of a healthy Christian community is the promotion of righteousness, faith, love, and peace.  People should enjoy coming together, loving one another, and promoting their belief in God over their own selves.

Where do you experience what Paul is talking about here?  What does it feel like when you are not in a place where that is possible?  Do you value those moments of true community when you have the opportunity to experience them?  How can you learn to appreciate them more?

Third Thought:
Paul speaks of “foolish” and “ignorant” discussions.  To put it more precisely, when Paul talks about foolishness he says “that which makes no sense” and when Paul talks about ignorance he literally means “from one who has failed to spend adequate time reflecting upon a subject.”  When Paul talks about controversies/discussions he is talking about a “discussion for the sake of argument without an underlying goal of seeking resolution.”  So here’s what Paul is saying in a nutshell.  Don’t waste a lot of your time engaged in pointless discussions that won’t change anything with people who aren’t willing to put the time in and research what you are actually talking about.  That’s really good advice.  When we spend our time debating issues with people who aren’t interested in changing – then our time is quite literally wasted.

Have you ever had a conversation with a person who is not interested in changing their opinion?  How can you tell that about another person?  How does it feel to have such a discussion?  Do you agree with Paul that we should avoid those kinds of discussions whenever possible?  Why do you agree or disagree?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2 Timothy 2:20-21

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 2:20-21

Paul then uses an analogy.  In every house there are items that are used for special purposes and there are items that are used every day for anything.  The same is true for God.  God can use any item for His glory, but if we take the time to cleanse ourselves from impurity we can trust that God will use us in special ways.  We will become holy and useful to God for the accomplishing of His will.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Have you ever noticed that there are things that people will use just about anywhere and there are other things that have a specific use?  Around our house, dinner plates are a great example.  We have everyday plates that Cara and I use … well … everyday.  We also have “guest plates” that we pull out when we are specifically having company.  But we also have the “china” that we pull out once every few Christmas dinners.  All of the plates are capable of holding food and doing the job.  But some of the plates are reserved for a “higher” purpose.

What items does your family have that are like this way?  Are there any tools that you (or other family members) let anyone use while reserving others for only a specific use?  What about books – are there some books that anyone can read and other books that are “treasures” and thus protected?  Why do we value certain things and not others?  Is it always based on cost – or are there other reasons we place value on things?

Second Thought:
Part of Paul’s point – although he doesn’t come out and say this directly – is that there is work to be done.  Some of the work is grunt work that just anyone can do.  Some of the work is specialized that God needs a particular skill set to accomplish.  However, the bottom line is that there is work to be done and God has graciously invited us to participate in that work.

How cool is it that God has called you to participate?  What kind of work do you think that He has called you to do?

Third Thought:
While we certainly shouldn’t think of any job that accomplishes God’s will as “below” us, we should also realize that there are some tasks that not everyone can do.  Everyone can (and should!) talk about their faith, but not everyone can preach or teach in a public setting.  Everyone can pray (and should!) but not everyone can lead others in worship.  Everyone can serve (and should!) but not everyone can serve in just any means that is necessary.  The gifts that are a part of leadership are often gifts that need to grow and be developed.  As Christians, we should recognize the need for these gifts and actively seek out ways to purify ourselves and prepare ourselves just in case God calls us into that kind of activity.

How often do you think about the choices you make and how they affect your ability to lead?  How often do you think about the places where God might be inviting you do use your gifts?  Why do you think we need to prepare ourselves for God’s service?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 2:22-23

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2 Timothy 2:16-19

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 2:16-19

Paul talks to Timothy about shallow talk focused on worldly things because it only leads people into paying attention to things that are not of God.  Paul also reminds Timothy that talk spreads like wildfire – especially talk that is juicy or like gossip.  Paul then speaks to Timothy about the danger of false teaching – especially the teaching of two leaders in Ephesus in particular.  Paul notes how false doctrine upsets the faithful.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Note Paul’s focus on worldly talk.  Paul isn’t saying that all conversations have to be deep, but he is saying that all of our conversations should represent our faith well.  When we talk about things that aren’t at all related to our faith two things happen.  First, we give people an avenue to not focus on God and instead focus on the world.  Second, we miss an opportunity to talk about our faith within us.  We should always look for opportunities to speak about our faith to anyone who is willing to listen and especially to those who are willing to engage in the conversation with us.

Is it easy to miss an opportunity to talk about God?  What can we do to help us remember to talk about God?

Second Thought:
Then Paul talks about how talk spreads among people.  People love that morsel of talk that can be passed from one person to another.  People love the opportunity to talk about things that are dangerous, risky, or even controversial.  This fact compounds the lesson in the first thought.  When we get people not talking about God, the shift in focus tends to spread throughout the body of faith until fewer and fewer people are actually spiritually relating to God and to one another.

What do people talk about when they opt to not talk about their faith and their spirituality?  Have you ever been the subject of worldly gossip?  How did that feel?  How can focusing on God actually help us stop falling victim to gossip and other poor choices in using speech?

Third Thought:
While Paul is on the topic of speaking, he talks about false doctrine and how false doctrine can upset a congregation.  In this particular case, the false doctrine is about the resurrection already happening.  Had the resurrection already happened, it really would have shifted the goal of life.  Christ called us to make disciples in lieu of the coming resurrection.  But if the resurrection already happened, what would be the point of life?  This same line of thinking is true for all false teaching.  False teaching upsets the natural order to which Christ has pointed us.  We are to teach His doctrine and point to Him.  It is only in Him and through Him that we can find peace.

Have you ever experienced false teaching?  How did it make you feel as you were trying to figure out what was real and what was false?  How did you feel once you remembered the truth and followed it with conviction?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 2:20-21

Monday, October 22, 2012

2 Timothy 2:14-15

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 2:14-15

Paul then tells Timothy to remind the people in Ephesus about what he had told Timothy in the prior section of the letter.  Paul instructs Timothy to not quarrel over words because quarreling over words simply ruins community.  We should be most concerned about presenting ourselves to God – not one another.  We are to be concerned about making sure that we are not ashamed of our faith and that we are correctly handling the teaching that Jesus gave to us.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Paul tells Timothy to remind others.  Essentially, Paul is telling Timothy to continue to teach.  The job of teaching is never done.  There are always new people being brought into the fold who need to hear for the first time.  There are always current people who are sliding backwards into the world who need to be reminded.  There are always people who are standing firm who need to be reminded of the reason as to why they should remain firm in their faith.  Teaching is an absolutely fundamental part of being a spiritual leader.

Do you have any opportunities where you can teach – even on a small scale?  Do you have any means of developing your teaching skills?

Second Thought:
We are not to quarrel over words.  This is a teaching that we need to be careful about how we interpret.  Paul is not saying that it is bad to talk about what we believe.  He’s not saying that we should be accepting of just any old way of talking about God.  He’s saying that we shouldn’t be willing to argue over just anything.  As they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat.  There are often several legitimate ways to solve an issue.  Often it is more important to find an answer that works and get past the issue than it is to find the absolute best answer before doing anything.  We can often lose so much valuable momentum because we talk about an issue for too long before getting to work on it.

Why is it important to talk through things?  When have you experienced people who are willing to talk through things at far too great of a depth?  How have you felt in those times?

Third Thought:
Paul reminds Timothy that what is important for a spiritual leader is not so much that we always make the perfect decision but that we represent God well in the decisions that we do make.  We need to make sure that when we speak and act that we are doing it in a way that brings glory to God and teaches people correctly about Jesus.  Although he doesn’t say it in so many words, Paul is encouraging Timothy to know that if Timothy is concerned about representing God well, then the Holy Spirit will take care of making sure that the decisions that are made will work out for God’s glory.

Is it easy to put things into God’s hands and trust?  What is easier for you – focusing on the outcomes of your actions or focusing on how your actions represent God?  Which of those two things do you think God wants us to focus upon the most?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 2:16-19

Sunday, October 21, 2012

2 Timothy 2:11-13

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 2:11-13

Paul tells Timothy that if we died with Christ, then we will live with Him.  If we endure through this life in Him, we will reign with Him.  If we deny Him in this life, then we can expect Him to deny us.  If we become faithless, He will still remain faithful.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Notice that Paul starts with dying with Christ.  Paul doesn’t talk about living with Christ until after he talks about dying with Christ.  It all starts with – everything hangs upon – whether or not we are willing to give up the passions of the flesh and follow Christ.  If we are not willing to die with Christ, we will never live with Him.  Make no bones about it.  For Paul, life in Christ starts with death with Christ.

Why does it have to start with our willingness to give up our fleshly desires?  Why can’t we have any confidence that we can live in Christ unless we are willing to die with Christ?

Second Thought:
After speaking about dying with Christ, then Paul says that we must endure.  Making a decision to die with Christ is often easy because it can be filled with emotions.  However, then comes that hard part.  Enduring life after we have decided to give up the fleshly desires is always difficult.  There are many temptations in this world.  If we are not diligent we find ourselves backsliding without even thinking about it.  However, we know that if we die with Christ and endure life then we will live and reign with Him.

Why is it so hard to endure in the faith?  Do you know anyone who at one point seemed so faithful but at the present time they have fallen away?  Why have they fallen?  Are you any more or less susceptible to falling away than anyone else?  What can help you endure?

Third Thought:
If we deny Christ, we can expect Him to deny us.  Now, this is so much more than a threat.  This is a reality.  We are all guilty of sin.  We are all condemned without the grace that comes through Christ.  So when Paul says that He will deny us, understand what Paul is saying.  If Christ denies us, we depart into judgment.  (See Matthew 7:21-23)  If we demonstrate a lack of faith, He will still remain faithful to God’s plan of salvation and God’s definition of righteousness.

Does the end of this passage scare you at all?  How do you think it would feel to be denied by Christ?  Is anything at all worth being denied by Christ?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 2:14-15

Saturday, October 20, 2012

2 Timothy 2:8-10

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 2:8-10

Paul once again reminds Timothy to not forget about Jesus Christ – who ultimately was raised from the dead and who is the thrust of true preaching.  Even though our preaching about Christ might make us feel bound in this world, the Word of God is not bound and cannot be bound.  Thus, we who are Christians should look at enduring hardship in this world as a service we do for others who have heard or who will hear and who will believe.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Do not forget Jesus.  It sounds so silly when I put it that way.  After all, isn’t Christianity named after Christ?  How can we possibly forget Christ?  Yet, we do it all the time.  We get so busy doing the work that we forget to talk about Christ.  We get so busy talking about each other’s lives that we forget to talk about Christ at work in our lives.  We get so wrapped up in the tasks of this world that we forget to think how Christ can be shown to the world through the accomplishment of our tasks.  He died for us, so we should not forget about Him.  Yet, often He is pushed into the background.

Do you know what I mean when I say how easy it is to forget about Jesus?  If so, what things in this life help you forget about Him the most?  What things do you do that don’t involve Jesus but you could easily bring Him into them?

Second Thought:
Paul then talks about being bound.  We are bound all the time in this world.  If teachers talk about faith in school they get in trouble.  If we have icons of faith in courts we get in trouble.  People are often made to feel put down when they wear a cross or a Christian T-shirt.  In classrooms if students talk about faith they are sometimes immediately considered less intelligent or even weird.  But God’s Word is not bound.  God’s Word can grow in places that appear at first to be the most inhospitable places you can imagine.  God’s Word is capable of taking root wherever it is proclaimed.  It can change the life of even the most cold-hearted person if they are willing.

Have you ever felt bound because of your faith?  Have you ever seen anyone come to know God that you thought was never going to know God?  Why do you think God’s Word can never truly be bound?

Third Thought:
Paul says that he endures hardship for the sake of the faithful.  Persecution will come.  The true test of a person is how they handle the persecution that does come.  A true believer will endure the persecution and stay loyal in the faith.  The true believer will stay loyal because of God, but also as a sign to the believers around them that it is possible to stand firm.  The true believer will endure persecution so that others who are persecuted (or who will be persecuted later) can have the example to follow.  Perhaps most importantly, a true believer will endure the persecution because it is the example of Christ.  Christ did it for us; we should do it for others as well.

What does persecution feel like to you?  When is it easy to endure?  When is it hard to endure?  Who are some of the people that might benefit from seeing you overcome the persecution that you might receive because of your faith?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 2:11-13

Friday, October 19, 2012

2 Timothy 2:5-7

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 2:5-7

Paul tells Timothy that we must be obedient if we want to be considered a champion in God’s kingdom.  We must work diligently if we want to see the fruit of God’s kingdom.  We must be willing to meditate and think if we want to gain understanding.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Obedience.  It is a word that most of us really don’t like to hear.  It’s also a word that has come up again and again in my life the last few weeks.  But seriously, how many of us really enjoy going the speed limit – especially when other cars go zipping by on our left unpunished?  How many of us really enjoy paying our taxes when we hear about so many people who seem to get away with not paying their full share through legal loopholes?  How many of us truly enjoy doing our household chores when sitting down in front of the television is so much more enjoyable?  However, if we want to wear the crown, we must be obedient!  How many disobedient football teams have ever won the Super Bowl?  How many disobedient students were ever given the title of valedictorian?  How many disobedient employees were ever given a promotion to vice president?

How obedient are you to God’s Word?  What places are the easiest for you to obey?  What places are the hardest for you to obey?

Second Thought:
Hard work.  Here’s another word that we don’t really care to hear about.  How many of us love working hard, getting sweaty, getting dirty, and ending up stiff that night and sore the day after?  Truth be told, I think most of us actually do enjoy it once we are doing it and especially when we can see the completed work at the end.  But in those moments leading up to the hard work, I think many of us dread the task.  But hard work is necessary – especially in the kingdom of God.  It is hard to talk to people about God and teach them about Jesus.  It is hard to practice our faith in a world that would embrace us if we just fall away.  We must approach our faith life with an attitude of working at it every day.

How do you work hard at your faith life every day?  What areas could you stand to work a little harder?

Third Thought:
Thought.  Meditation.  It is something that most of us do not do all that well unless we have been trained.  Most of us would rather be entertained than exert thought.  The problem with thought is that it usually just brings up more questions.  To get those answers we must be obedient and do more hard work.  But it is only through our thinking that we gain understanding about why the hard work and the obedience is so important.

What spiritual concept have you thought hard about lately and how have you grown in your thinking?  How has your thinking helped you understand why the hard work and the obedience to God is really necessary?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 2:8-10

Thursday, October 18, 2012

2 Timothy 2:1-4

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 2:1-4

After speaking about all those that have abandoned him, Paul then returns to the language of calling Timothy his child. He also encourages him to remain strong in the faith that was entrusted to him.  Paul reminds him that he has not just heard this faith from Paul but from many other sources as well.  Paul tells Timothy to be willing to share in the suffering.  However, Paul also reminds Timothy to not get entangled in civilian pursuits since the goal of a soldier is to please the leader of the army, not the world around the army.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Again we hear Paul encouraging Timothy to stay strong.  Again we hear Paul speak to Timothy as his own child.  For Paul, others leaving the faith hurts.  But should Timothy to also leave the faith it would be a crushing blow because Paul trained him personally.  This shows us some of the love and passion that should be present in a spiritual mentor.  As a disciple of Christ, you want a spiritual mentor who is going to absolutely pour himself in blood, sweat, and tears into your spiritual life.  You want someone that will devote himself so much that they would be crushed should you ever stray away from the faith.  You want someone who will actually be able to mirror what Jesus Christ did for His disciples.

Have you ever thought about the importance of not just finding a mentor, but finding a good mentor who genuinely cares?  When you think about Christ, how did Jesus pour himself into His disciples (obviously the cross, but what else)?    

Second Thought:
Not that Paul emphasizes that Timothy heard about the faith from multiple sources.  Paul didn’t just teach Timothy.  Paul introduced Timothy to other people who could teach.  He introduced Timothy to other sources of genuine faith so that Timothy had multiple perspectives.  Part of being a well-rounded follower of God is having multiple points of contact with spiritual beings who can teach you different things about the faith and how to live out one’s faith.

Why is it easier to believe when you are surrounded by more than one person who confesses belief?  Why is it easier to stand in faith when you are in a group than when you are by yourself?  Why might it be able to teach others when you have multiple points of faith contact teaching you?

Third Thought:
Paul gives Timothy some very sage advice.  Paul reminds Timothy that he is a soldier in God’s army.  As a soldier in God’s army, he should be concerned about the pursuits of the commander of that army: God.  He shouldn’t be concerned about the civilian (worldly) affairs.  The world can and will govern itself and pursue the things that it desires.  If Timothy really is a member of God’s army, then he needs to be able to focus on God’s agenda.

What events draw your attention away from God?  What events draw your attention away from God’s agenda?  Where do you feel called by God to focus?

I’m going to go into a bit of a specific tangent here.  I’ve seen many people fretting over this upcoming election.  I’m not fretting over it.  Yes, I know who I would like to see win and who I don’t think I want as a civilian leader over my fellow countrymen.  But in the end, is not the American president a “civilian” issue?  Is either candidate pushing Christianity?  Is either candidate going to encourage people to get into a closer relationship with the one true God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?  What do Paul’s words here really say with respect to a disciple of Christ’s focus concerning events such as a political election?  Sure, we can try and help the best course of action happen.  But if our citizenship is in heaven, is it really of incredible concern who the world chooses to pick for their leader?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 2:5-7

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

2 Timothy 1:15-18

Summary retelling of 2 Timothy 1:15-18

Paul tells Timothy that all who were in Asia (that is, Asia Minor) turned away from Paul’s teaching.  Onesiphorus is one disciple who did not turn away.  Instead, Onesiphorus came to Rome, searched for Paul, and encouraged him while he was in prison.  Paul then asks God to remember the sacrifice and service of Onesiphorus in judgment – for he not only helped Paul but also the church in Ephesus.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
This is a dark moment in Paul’s life.  He’s in Rome – arrested – and unable to go about and preach.  Members from his former churches are refusing to come to Rome and offer words of defense for him.  We know that a false Gospel – one based on works salvation – is spreading like wildfire among the churches in Asia Minor.  Things seem to be crumbling in his life.  So Paul turns to Timothy in a search for hope in his life.  Christians cannot dwell in the unhappiness of life forever.  Eventually we must seek out hope wherever it may be found.  This world can be depressing to live in at times, especially for those of us who are in the Lord.  We must learn to continually look for hope.

What things in the world depress you?  What does the world do that you know would be better if they turned to the Lord instead?  Where do you find your hope? 

Second Thought:
Paul also remembers a saint by the name of Onesiphorus.  Onesiphorus came to Paul’s side when he needed someone.  Onesiphorus came and sought Paul out.  He came and offered encouragement when Paul needed it.  When the rest of the world seemed to falling away, Onesiphorus was there to restore Paul’s faith.

What does this passage tell us about the significance of relationships within our faith?  How does it make you feel to know that even Paul – the great Apostle who wrote more of the New Testament books than anyone else! – needed encouragement?

Third Thought:
Paul asks God to remember Onesiphorus in the Day of the Lord – the day of judgment.  This is a pretty cool thought, although it is easy to pass it by.  We can often overlook this as “words” that Paul says as a “thank-you” to Onesiphorus.  It is easy to hear Paul say these words and just think that he is being cordial.  But I think Paul actually means these words.  If we look to Matthew 6:20 we hear Jesus tell the people around Him to store up treasure in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot beak in and steal.  I think Paul’s words here are a living breathing example of Jesus’ teaching.  Paul is reminding us that it is far better to be rewarded for our actions on the great Day of the Lord than to be rewarded for them here and now.

Why is it better to receive our reward in heaven rather than now?  Do you always live with that focus?  What gets in the way of our ability to live with our mind focused on receiving a reward in heaven rather than receiving here and now?

Passage for Tomorrow: 2 Timothy 2:1-4