Thursday, October 19, 2017

Thursday, October 19


"6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe." (1 Timothy 4:6-10)

In his letter to his disciple Timothy, now a pastor in Ephesus, Paul offers valuable instruction on leading this church and maximizing Kingdom impact.  As you may recall, Timothy likely took this position at a young age.  Paul references his youth as a potential distraction, but he urges Timothy to show spiritual maturity and groundedness as an effective counterpoint.

The collection of the three pastoral letters—1 and 2 Timothy and Titus—open Paul's heart for extending his work beyond his own life and reach.  Paul wrote these letters at the tail end of his ministry, and he motivates his disciples to honor their commitments to the Lord, often noted with "trustworthy saying" remarks.

In this snippet, Paul underscores that our nourishment as believers comes from "the truths of the faith and... the good teaching that you have followed."  We grow due to godly, spiritual training, not from listing to "godless myths and old wives' tales."  In other words, we should seek spiritual truth, not worldly wisdom, to become effective Christ-followers.  He notes that our training doesn't just propel our effectiveness in this life, but also in the "life to come."  Godly trainings makes us more like Christ and prepares us to enjoy His presence now and into eternity.

Paul closes this passage by noting that we may "put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people... "  This hope doesn't disappoint us, for it is rooted in God's faithfulness and the trustworthiness of His Word.  Here, Paul finds motivation in his labor for the Church.  He knows that he has invested wisely by pouring out his life for the Gospel, knowing that its foundations are secure, and its rewards lasting.

What motivates you in your work?  In your relationship with God?  In what practical ways could you invest in training and growth?

Lord God, thank You for sending Your Son so that we may a secure hope in the bright glory of heaven.  Help us to continue growing into greater Christlikeness through our training.  Help us to choose wisely between Your unadulterated truth and worldly "wisdom."  Make us effective and fruitful in our service to Your Kingdom.  In Jesus's Name, amen.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017


Jeremiah 31:33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LordI will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Whenever I do a Passover dinner I refer to this passage while taking Communion as part of the service. We all know that as we read through the Old Testament we see that the promise of the covenant God made to the Jewish people was always directly connected to their obedience and observation of the law.  However, Moses sheds a different light in Exodus 24:8 "Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, "This the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words".  We see here an insight that the true promise of pardon is not through obedience and observation of the law, it is through the shed blood of their coming Messiah.  Jeremiah reminds them of this new covenant in this passage.  What binds us to the heart of God is the relationship in our hearts that is entered into through the blood Jesus shed on the cross.  The night of the Passover when He broke bread with His disciples He said "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:20)  In His final act of love through self-controlled obedience, Jesus shed His blood so that we could all enter into this new covenant.  He is our God and we are His people.  Now here's the thing, this offer isn't limited to only a select few.  This new covenant is available for everyone to enter into. It's a gift for all to receive.  All you have to do is open your heart to Jesus and claim Him as Lord over your life. 


Saturday, October 14, 2017

October 14: Of the World’s Delusions

Jeremiah 23:21-25:38
2 Thessalonians 2:1-17
Psalm 84:1-12
Proverbs 25:15

There is some twisted sense of comfort in the realization that the sins we commit today are not new.  God has seen them before.  In today's OT reading the Lord tells Jeremiah "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name…how long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?"  

Paul talks about it as well in the NT reading, when he says "for the secret power of lawlessness is already at work" and "the coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works.  He will use all sort of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie."   

Today those prophets are those who propagate a popular culture that denies the existence of God, the meaning of His Word, sometimes even a standard to live by other than one's own gratification.  They are the ones who substitute their standards for God's word as the measure of right and wrong; the ones who twist the meaning of love, acceptance and inclusiveness to mean the condonation of the very things God says are harmful to those whom we profess to care about.  And not all of them are to be found in Hollywood, on TV, in the movies or on the internet; some can be found in public office, even in the pulpit, preaching vociferously.  

They are also the ones we see when we look in the mirror.  The truth is, we are all guilty of ignoring, of twisting God's word to excuse, to condone, even to support our sinful behavior.  Because by doing so we reject God and all He offers, the consequences are severe.  Before Jesus came to save mankind, the Lord described such results as "everlasting disgrace - everlasting shame", about making people "abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, a curse and an object of ridicule" when they are banished.  This is not something to be taken lightly. 

What then to do?  We can go back to Paul for guidance: "So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter."  We go back to God's Word.  And when tempted by the world's promises, may we remember the psalm: "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere."  May we prefer to be doorkeepers in God's house than dwell in the homes of the wicked.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Oct 13 2017

2 Thessalonians 1

Is it me or is life getting really hard? Hurricanes, earthquakes, North Korea, fires in California, attacks against Christians, health issues, family issues, church issues, and the Giants not winning a game yet!!!  The last one is a joke.  But life is really tough these days. So how about a story from one of the most brilliant and perceptive theologians of our time, Rocky Balboa? It comes from the final film in the series (we hope) and the aging Rocky is inspired to fight his last match against the undefeated heavyweight champion. Many people, including his son, believe Rocky will be humiliated. Rocky sits down with his son but their conversation quickly deteriorates into an argument. Rocky knowing that his son doesn't understand the heart of a winner tries to teach him.

Rocky tells his son, "But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward—how much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! You gotta be willing to take the hits and not point fingers, saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody! Cowards do that, and that's not you!"

Life isn't easy. Even Rocky knows this. The question isn't whether life is going to hit you hard. The question is, when life hits you, will you be a winner or a whiner?  Winners take the hits and move forward, whiners blame other people for their problems.

The people in the city of Thessalonica were going through some terrible life storms. The year was 51 A.D. and Timothy had been sent to the city to see how things were going. Upon his return Paul was overjoyed that although they had been hit by persecution and injustice, they were standing steadfast and they were proving themselves to be winners, "we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring."

Every person reading this knows how difficult life can be. But if we are going to become winners we must continue to grow our faith even when everything screams for us to abandon God. Winners persevere and endure trials. Winners also focus on the promises of God and not the problems. God will pay back unjust people. There is a judgment day coming for all troublemakers. Winners realize that even when we are knocked down on the canvas we can appropriate God's power and stand up again. And when we beat the 10 count, this brings glory and honor to the name of Jesus Christ.

If you are knocked down today, get up and strengthen your faith. It's time to get back in the arena.


"Multiplying leaders to change the world"

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Thursday, October 12


"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

This passage encapsulates some key teaching on God's general will for Christ-followers.  The three short commands here appear quite simple on the surface, but, looking deeper, we understand that these three actions arise from our heart and flow out of our wills.  Our faithfulness to these commands indicates the temperature of our heart for knowing God, as each one draws us more deeply into His presence.

Rejoice always.  Observing the pain and suffering that we see in our world — or even the frictions and annoyances that we encounter — we may wonder how we may rejoice always.  This joy comes from a heart-attitude of trusting God.  Knowing that He cares and provides for us, we may rejoice in being held by His powerful hand.  We know from Romana 8:28,29 that He works everything for our good and our being made more fully into the image of Christ.

Pray continually.  This verse emphasizes our commitment to maintain contact with our Father throughout the day.  This attitude of prayer reminds us of our dependence on God and His love for us, evident by Christ's death that made our conversation with God.

Give thanks in all circumstances.  Completing this virtuous cycle, we may give thanks in all circumstances.  We give thanks that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  We  give thanks for every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).  We give thanks that God counts us as His sheep and the people of His pasture (Psalm 100).  Remembering the promises and truths of Scripture can support and motivate our thanksgiving.

Lord God, thank You for making our joy, prayer, and thanksgiving possible.  Your love is the firm ground on which we stand, and You have provided pathways for us to know You better and to experience the rich blessing of wholeness in You.  Help us to grow more into Your image.  In Jesus's Name, amen.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

October 11

Jeremiah 18:6  --  Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand

Anyone reading this who has been at Grace within the past few years was given an opportunity to see a unique interpretation of this passage come to life.  Until I actually watched clay being molded and shaped I never realized the strength and pressure it took for a lump of clay to take on a beautiful shape.  The potter never took his eyes or hands off of the clay --  we all watched a piece of art come to life.  Such is the relationship between a potter and his masterpieces.  Such is the relationship between us and God. We are that lump of clay, and God's hands are always upon us, molding, shaping and refining us. Of course we feel the pressure when His hands are refining us, forming us to the shape we need to take to serve in His kingdom, but our souls are reshaped to be a little bit more like the God we serve, taking on a new form of beauty in His eyes. When the clay resisted the hand of the potter, it was out of shape, off center, and almost fell off the wheel.  The potter then applied more pressure to recenter it, continuing to mold the clay until it took the form he wanted and until he was satisfied.  The passage made me stop and think of the areas in my life and my soul that I have not yet submitted to the hand of the Potter.  1 Peter 5:6 tells us to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time. If, like me, you feel a little "off kilter",   I pray that by faith we stop resisting and allow ourselves to shaped and molded by the hand of God. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph. 2:10)


Sunday, October 8, 2017

October 7: Man is a Marginal Being

Jeremiah 8:8-9:26
Colossians 3:1-17
Psalm 78:32-55
Proverbs 24:27

Have you ever noticed how we rarely hear anyone say "I have enough"?  Man seems to be a marginal being, one who is constantly looking to obtain the next best thing.  He has a job, he wants the next one.  He has a car, he wants the nicer one.  He has a house, he aspires to the bigger one.  It seems that for man, it is never enough, and it leads to terrible frustration, stress and worry. 

There is one place, however, where this could work to our benefit, and it is in the pursuit of Christ.  Paul talks about this in Colossians.  You've set aside sexual immorality?  Set aside impurity next.  And then lust, evil desires, and greed.  You've rid yourself of anger?  Move on to rage, then malice and slander and filthy language.  There is always one more thing we can do to manifest that we have take off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self.

Are we ever going to achieve perfection?  Certainly not.  But we don't have to worry, we don't have to submit to stress or surrender to frustration - because God commands us not to: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful."

God, thank you for the constant aspiration You've put in our hearts.  May it be pointed in the right direction, towards You.  That every day we might aspire "to see Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly".