The Dark Side – and God’s Side

2 Timothy 3

 

2Tim3 1617 (1)

The first half of this chapter paints a rather bleak picture of thriving human sinfulness.  “Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.  … who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth“  (2 Timothy 3:2-5, 6b-7).  That’s a pretty good list of nastiness.  And it hits so many types of people: the materialistic, the teen rebel, the violent criminal, the power-hungry politician, the educated professor who denies God.

 

And sometimes, it hits me, too.  I can be proud – especially when I think I am right, but “they” are wrong.  I can be ungrateful – to God and to those who have given of their time and talents for me.  Sometimes love does not shine through me.  I don’t always exercise self-control and bite my tongue when I ought.  Too often I have chosen loving pleasure over loving God – watching one more episode and then suddenly “too tired” to read His Word.

 

It is so easy to point the finger at evil and the dark side around us.  And, definitely DO be aware of its prevalent influence in the world so you don’t unknowingly get sucked up in it yourself.  But carefully watch yourself as well.  Where do you need to work so you reflect more God and less world?

 

In the second half of this chapter Paul flips to writing on the light/Godly side of things.  He speaks of his own life – his purpose, teaching, faith, and love as well as persecutions and suffering (3:10,11).   This bed of roses indeed comes with many thorns.  He writes, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (3:12).  Because of the wickedness and deception in the world (see verses 1-9), Christians must expect and be prepared for many trials when they are actually acting like and following Christ.

 

But, don’t give up says Paul!  “Continue in what you have learned and what you have become convinced of…the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation”.  Who couldn’t use more wisdom for salvation??  Sign me up!  I am ready for more wisdom that leads to salvation.  I saw in the first half of this chapter my own darker side.  I am in need of more and more wisdom for salvation.  And, that is found in God’s Holy Scriptures.

 

But, that’s not all!   There’s more good found in God’s Word.   For, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (3:16).  Here is the key to standing against the evil in the world and in myself – God’s Word!  He breathed it for me.  He breathed it for you.  And it is useful, over and over again, every time it is opened.  It gives wisdom for salvation, it teaches, it rebukes (which I do indeed need from time to time), it corrects, and it trains me to be righteous (which I always need).

 

But, there is still more!  With God’s Word we can be, “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (3:17).  Do you long to do good works for Him – open His Word.  Are you discouraged by the evil of the world – open His Word.   Are you ready to be wise for salvation – open His Word.  Breath in what God breathed out for you.

 

Marcia Railton

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Power. Love. Self-Discipline.

2 Timothy 1

2 timothy 1 7

 

Here we are – seven days away from the start of FUEL, the week-long youth event where this daily devotions blog began 3 years ago when the week’s theme was GROW.  On their website, Turning Point Youth Ministries says of FUEL, “We make every effort to create an environment that challenges, encourages and equips students to pursue intimacy with God, connect with others, and ask hard spiritual questions.  We have a lot of fun and work hard to help students see what loving God and others is all about.”

 

I think Paul had a similar mission as he was writing this letter (which would become 2 Timothy) to his dear friend and son in Christ.  Paul was now in prison (not just house arrest) for preaching the name of Jesus.  Emperor Nero was persecuting Christians and it was a very difficult time to be a Christian.  Consequently, some were falling away from the faith, some were fleeing persecution and many were deserting Paul (1:15).  From his prison cell he was writing to challenge, encourage and equip his younger spiritual son in the faith who would be carrying on the work.

 

Paul could be bitter or scared or quietly submissive – but instead we see thankfulness and prayers night and day for Timothy (1:3).  We hear him urge Timothy to keep testifying about Jesus and keep telling Paul’s story without being ashamed of the gospel or the chains (1:8, 16).  The prisoner appeals to Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” – not necessarily as a prisoner – but as one who makes daily sacrifices for spreading the word of life – even when it involves suffering (1:8).  The teacher instructs the student to keep teaching what is right and true (1:13).

 

This chapter is beautifully summed up in the words of verse 7 – “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”   It is a great reminder whether we are preparing to serve – or be served – at FUEL.  It is a great reminder whether we will be praying at home – night and day.  It is a great reminder for God’s people.

Love.  Power.  Self-Discipline.  From God – to You.  How will you use them today?

Marcia Railton

Jesus and Paul, Paralleled

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Acts 23

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to persecution. He saw it from both sides. He was at times the persecutor and the persecuted. While he was a zealous Pharisee in Jerusalem, he targeted Jews who joined the sect of followers of Jesus called the Way. When he became a follower himself and preached the Gospel throughout Asia Minor and Macedonia, he was imprisoned multiple times and warned by friends not to return to Jerusalem, because if he did, he would likely be killed. Yet in chapter 23, we see Paul is not only in Jerusalem but in the custody of the Romans, facing the Sanhedrin.

About a quarter century earlier, another Jewish preacher stood in front of the same group of religious leaders. The name of that preacher was Jesus, and it was because of him that Paul found himself in an identical position. Like Paul, Jesus had also returned to Jerusalem that final time knowing it could mean death. And both times, each was the target of a treacherous plot. But neither Paul nor Jesus were moved from their mission because of this threat. They were both willing to die for the cause.
But there are several important differences between Paul and Jesus during their final days in the Jewish Holy City. Unlike Paul, Jesus put up no defense while in front of the Sanhedrin and Roman rulers. The prophecy in Isaiah 53:7 puts it this way: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Paul, on the other hand, started his remarks to the Sanhedrin by stating that he has lived his life with a clear conscience. Then, after inadvertently insulting the High Priest, he cleverly changed the subject from himself to a disagreement between the Pharisees and Sadducees. The ensuing bruhaha allowed Paul to get out of there without facing any penalties.
The following night Paul was told by the Lord that he would not die in Jerusalem but would make it to Rome to testify there also. Despite the fears of his friends, Jerusalem would not be the end of the road for Paul. And this is the other difference between Paul and Jesus. Because Jesus would not defend himself when he had the opportunity, the intimate Passover meal he shared with his twelve disciples would be their last together; the following day he was beaten and crucified.
Paul and Jesus both went to Jerusalem to save lives. The latter accomplished this goal by taking on the sins of the world and offering his life as a sacrifice for all. The former did this by telling any who would listen about that sacrifice and how to receive the salvation offered as a result of it.
Usually, I would say that we should follow the example of Christ. But when it comes to facing charges that are unfounded, we should look to Paul as the model. Yes, Paul was willing to die for what he believed in, but he didn’t intend to because of false accusations. Paul defended himself so he could advance the Gospel; Jesus didn’t so he could guarantee it. We must be willing to die for the cause of the Kingdom, yet always seeking to put ourselves in the best position to champion it.
-Joel Fletcher

A Farewell

ACTS 20

acts 20 26 27

In Acts 20 Paul travels around some more, and is heading towards Jerusalem, but on his way he meets with the Ephesus elders one last time to talk to them and encourage them.  He knows that God’s plan for him will not bring him back to Ephesus and that he would never see them again. He had spent three years with them and knew that they would be a strong pillar in the growing Church and he wanted to make sure that they would be okay.  The Church had come under attack from the Jewish communities and from the government many times during Paul’s ministry and he knew that would continue, so he wanted to prepare them. He knew that those who would come after and try to lead them astray would try to attack him personally in order to get the Christians at Ephesus to doubt him and his message, and therefore their own faith.  Paul reminds them that at all times when he was with them he took care of his own needs, and did not profit off of them in any way and only cared about their spiritual well being.

 

One of the biggest detractors in the Christian faith is hypocrites.  How many times do you hear about the pastor at a church somewhere being involved in a scandal and then the church folding or many of the people walking away from the faith.  As Christians we are held to a higher standard and when we do not live up to that standard it affects any who look up to us as a role model. Paul’s ministry was successful and had a deep impact on all of western culture because he preached boldly, and he backed it up with a righteous life.  This is also why you need to make your faith your own. People will invariably let you down at some point, but Jesus is a rock on which you can build your life. Of course it is good to have role models, but know that they are only human.

-Chris Mattison

Painful Growth Rewarded

Gen 15 13,14

Moses: Introduction and backdrop

 

Hey i’m Chris Mattison and I would like to take this week to look at Moses and his incredible life story. First, though I would like to take today to look at the situation into which Moses was born.

 

God had made a covenant with Abraham that his descendants would be numerous and would inhabit the promised land (Genesis 15).  In this promise God did tell Abraham that his people would have to leave to a strange land and be enslaved for 400 years, but that they would return to their own land.  As we know countries do not like to have foreigners moving into their land, so God moved Joseph into place as the right hand of Pharaoh so that he could guide the nation through a seven year famine and so that he could provide a place of protection inside of Egypt for the Israelites (Genesis 45:8-11).  As they continued to live in Egypt they prospered and grew in numbers so much that the Egyptians became worried that they would pose a threat to them someday so the Egyptians enslaved the Israelite people. Through all of this their numbers continued to grow as their nation was being painfully incubated inside the protection of Egypt (Exodus 1:8-14).

 

It is difficult to form a new nation in the ancient world because groups always intermarry with those around them and we see this as a major issue for the Israelites for the rest of the Old Testament, and later on God uses the laws and customs that he gives them to keep them separate and unique, but at this time God uses their enslavement to keep them as a single coherent nation of people.  This is maybe one of the most “tough love” ways to keep a promise.

 

During this time the Israelites began to forget about God’s promise and to worship the gods of the Egyptians, because in their minds those gods must be more powerful if the Egyptians are more powerful than them.

 

God’s people always seem to thrive in adversity.  In the early church the numbers of Christians continued to grow even though they were being fed to lions for spectator sport and were being persecuted in every manner imaginable.    Today in areas like China where Christianity is viewed as a threat to the government and is actively repressed the number of Christians is estimated to be around 30 Million and growing rapidly.

 

Maybe you feel like your faith in Christ has set you apart and alienated you from your friends, and that is probably very difficult for you to deal with.  Following Christ means dying to self and maybe that means you have to die to your social group and put up with some ridicule and rejection from society. It can be easy to be worn down by the world and give in and start following the gods of society, and many people do that.  But we need to have endurance to run the race to the end (2 Timothy 4:7).

-Chris Mattison

Stand Up For Christ

psalm 118 6

So far this week, we have discussed topics on having a Christ-centered life, God’s Will vs. our will, why it’s important to worship through singing, and that we all have a purpose. Today we will be discussing the importance of standing up for Christ.

In today’s society, topics such as religion and Christianity are shunned. Some people avoid speaking on the topics and others try to intimidate or harass those who do. This is known as persecution. Christians are being persecuted all over the world. Some even to the point of abuse or death. Christians are being persecuted for worshiping God, believing in Jesus Christ, reading the Bible, or even speaking or practicing the teaching of Christianity.

Do you ever feel uncomfortable mentioning topics about Christianity? Do you feel like you will be in trouble or scrutinized? Those are feelings and thoughts of fear.

“The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?” -Psalm 118:6

“I sought the LORD, and He answered me,

And delivered me from all my fears.”

-Psalm 34:4

We should not let fear overcome us. We should put our faith in God and He will take care of us. He will definitely take care of us if we are glorifying Him, sharing His Word, and standing up for His Son, Jesus Christ. God wants us to stand firm in our faith and proclaim the message of the Gospel.

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” -1 Corinthians 16:13-14

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” -John 14:6

By proclaiming the Gospel message and sharing our faith we are standing up for Christ. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through Him. We need Jesus in our lives. We need to follow Him. We need Him as our friend.

We need to stand up for Him. I love the hymn titled “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.”

The first verse sings “Stand Up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross; Lift high His royal banner, It must not suffer loss; From victory unto victory His army shall He lead, Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.”

The last verse ends with “To him that overcometh A crown of life shall be; He with the King of glory Shall reign eternally.”

Do you want to reign and live with Jesus Christ eternally in the Kingdom of God? I know I sure do!

We need to stand up for Christ now, so we can stand with Christ in His Father’s Kingdom which will be established on earth.

Today I encourage you to not fret, worry, or live in fear. God is for us. Jesus Christ died for us. And now we need to live for Him! Share the Gospel message, live a life that represents Jesus, and stand up for Christ!

-Brenan Dominguez

Still Giving – and Standing Firm

Luke 21

Luke 21_28

Yesterday our devotion centered on the Christmas story – as presented in Luke chapter 20.  Today takes us into Luke 21 which begins with a few verses concerning giving gifts. How fitting.  But here it is a slightly different type of gift which Jesus is referring to.   “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4).   Giving to God’s work is indeed a great place to give your gifts – whether you are blessed with a lot to give or very little to give.  God sees the heart and is delighted in the heart that joyfully gives all to Him.

The rest of this chapter is devoted to the future – including some rather troubling events: earthquakes, wars, famine, and hatred, prison and persecution as a result of believing and  testifying about Jesus.  But hope is given.  Jesus says he is telling us these things so that we will know what must take place before the end will come.  A hard day of dirty work is always made easier by knowing it will not continue forever.  At the end there will be a time to enjoy the rewards of working hard.   So too, those who are faithful through the end times can look forward to reaping the reward when the Son of Man comes again.

Jesus says do not be afraid; rather, “Stand firm, and you will win life.” (Luke 21:19).  Even while our neighbors are fainting from terror at the surrounding events, Jesus tells us to stand tall.  He says, “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27,28). 

Keep Giving – and Stand Firm!

Marcia Railton