November 18 – “The Word of God”

Day 323 – Read 2 Timothy 3
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
There are different opinions about whether or not the Bible is the Word of God, or if it becomes the Word of God as we read it, or if it is entirely the writings of men.  Paul makes it very clear that all Scripture, not just a part, is inspired by God.  The literal translation is “God breathed.”  The Apostle Peter said that no Scripture is man’s opinion, but was written as men were moved upon by the Holy Spirit.
Because it is God’s Word, all Scripture is profitable. It was written for our good.  When reading the Bible, we might feel different emotions, or have different reactions, but it is all intended to bring us closer to God.  If we read it for doctrine or instruction, it will lead us into the truth of how we should live.  If we feel reproved or corrected, it will set us free, turn us in the right direction, and also lead us into the truth.
The end result is so that we will be complete, not lacking anything we need to live victoriously in this world, and able to help others on their journey.
When you read the Bible, don’t approach it like it is just another book.  Open your heart and let the Holy Spirit speak to you.  You will be better for it.
NOTE: We are getting ready to board the plane to Cuba, so will be without Internet and out of touch for a week.

November 17 – “Qualities of Discipleship”

Day 322 – Read 2 Timothy 2

2 Timothy 2:3-6 – You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hard-working farmer must be first to partake of the crops.

Jesus said that if we want to be His disciples we must deny ourselves, take up the cross, and follow Him. It is not a call to easy living. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ requires a dedicated and sacrificial life. While there are many blessings and benefits of being a follower of Jesus, our motivation for following Him should never be to please ourselves, but to please Him.

To help explain the call to discipleship, Paul uses three metaphors: the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer. Each one is unique, but all must be disciplined, responsible, and persevering.

The soldier serves his nation, always under orders, and often giving up the comforts of home to do so. A soldier’s life is not lived for his own pleasure, but to serve in submission to those in authority. His mission is to defend others, and defeat the enemy. An athlete is in competition against others competing for a prize. To be the best requires disciplined training, and abiding by the rules. Breaking the rules can result in being disqualified. Finally, the farmer will not be successful without hard work. There is no quick and easy way to produce a crop.

These examples apply to us as disciples of Jesus Christ. We must not get so caught up in the affairs of this life that we forget why we’re here. Our priority is not to serve ourselves, but to serve Him who called us. We must know the Word so that we can live according to its principles. Finally, we must be dedicated workers in the harvest field.

NOTE: I am flying out this afternoon to catch an early morning flight into Cuba for their national convention.  I will not have internet access for a week, and therefore will not be able to post anything while there.

November 16 – “Rekindle the Flame”

Day 321 – Read 2 Timothy 1

2 Timothy 1:6-7 – Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

One of the problems with reading a translation, rather than the original language, is that the picture being described by the author is not always communicated clearly. In this case, the phrase “stir up the gift of God,” loses the vivid metaphor of the word that Paul used. Paul is referring to embers in which the flame has died down. The word literally means to “kindle anew the flames of the fire.” Often, when rekindling a fire, it requires the stirring up of the embers. So, it is not difficult to understand the reason why the translators used the expression “stir up”.

While the flames have gone down, the embers are still burning. So, there is no need to build a new fire, just fan into flames the existing one. One of the ways a flame is rekindled is by blowing on it. The movement of air stirs up the embers and revives the flame. But, often, there needs to be a rearranging of the wood, and possibly putting new wood on the fire. In the same way, there is no reason to believe that Timothy’s fire had gone out. He just needed to rearrange some things, and let the wind of the Spirit blow upon him.

Paul doesn’t say what the gift was that needed to be stirred up, but it is possible that he is referring to the Holy Spirit. While the laying on of hands also referred to the act of ordination, in Acts 19:6, when Paul laid his hands on the believers, the Holy Spirit came upon them. In Acts 2:38, Peter referred to the Holy Spirit as a gift. We know the Holy Spirit can be quenched, and we are to continually be filled with the Spirit. So, it is not far-fetched to think that Timothy needed to rekindle the gift of the Spirit that was in him.

This thought is reinforced by verse 7, where it speaks of a spirit of fear, and the spirit of power, love, and a sound mind. If you feel like you have grown cold and need to rekindle the fire within you, rearrange some things in your life that may be hindering your devotional life, spend time in fellowship with those who are on fire, and ask the Holy Spirit fill you once again.

November 16 – “Focus on Godliness”

Day 320 – Read 1 Timothy 6

1 Timothy 6:6-8 – Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

I travel to a lot of different countries, many of them poor. However, I rarely spend much time in the tourist areas with nice hotels and restaurants. It has been my privilege to be able to visit the people where they live. While I occasionally visit someone with a house nicer than I could ever dream to own, most of the time I find myself in very humble surroundings.

I have been in grass huts built up on stilts. I have been in houses with a tin roof and dirt floor. I have been in tent cities. I have visited people who live in houses with no indoor plumbing, running water, or electricity. But, one thing I have discovered is that many of the people who live in those conditions are happier and more content than many people living in first world countries. They have food to eat, clothes to wear, a roof over their heads, and they are grateful.

It is quite a contrast from those who live in a keep-up-with-the-Joneses society. They want a bigger house, a newer car, a larger TV, and the latest gadget to come out. Unfortunately, they have to go into debt to maintain that lifestyle, and that robs them of their joy and contentment.

Paul says that we came into the world with nothing, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave. So, rather than putting too much importance on material things, we should learn to be content with what we have, and focus more on godly living. While we can’t take anything with us, we can lay up treasures in heaven. Love God and love your neighbor. Give to those in need. Help those who have fallen to get back on their feet again. Those are the kinds of things that lead to contentment and joy.

November 14 – “Pray First”

Day 318 – Read 1 Timothy 2
1 Timothy 2:1-5 – Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.  3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
When Paul says “first of all” he is stating something more than the first on a list, he is emphasizing what is most important.   As Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”
Too often, believers find it easier to complain, protest, or boycott, rather than pray.  But, God said the answer to healing a nation was to pray.  This can be applied to healing a marriage, healing a family, or many other things.    And while there are some practical things we can do, there is really nothing we can do until we pray.
God wants us to live peaceful, godly lives.  But, more importantly, He wants everyone to be saved.  If everyone lived in the knowledge of the truth, it would solve a lot of the world’s problems.  But, to bring it down to a more personal level, it is the truth that sets us free as individuals.  Every time a person comes to the truth it changes them for the better.  Better people make a better world.
It all starts with prayer.  Pray for your leaders, pray for your friends and family, and pray for those who have yet come to the knowledge of the truth.

November 13 – “God’s Enablement”

Day 317 – Read 1 Timothy 1
1 Timothy 1:12 – And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.
It was 45 years ago that I was studying for a secular degree at the University of Oregon.  During the fall term my life was interrupted by the call of God.  I can’t say it was an audible voice, but there was no doubt that God was calling me to transfer my studies to L.I.F.E. Bible College to prepare for the ministry.  The challenge for me was that I was very shy and couldn’t speak in public.  How could God use me?
Today, 45 years later, I thank God for that intervention into my life.  He saw something in me that I was unaware of.  When Paul wrote that God had put him in the ministry, that is exactly how I feel.  It wasn’t my choice, or at least it wasn’t what I was planning on.  I did have the choice to obey God, which I did, and I don’t regret it.  But, I didn’t ask God for this, He called me.
The only reason that I have lasted for over 40 years in the ministry is not because I am so talented or qualified.  Sometimes it still amazes me that God could take such a timid guy and use him to minister in over 20 countries.  But, it is not because of my abilities, it is because God enabled me.  He delivered me from my inability to speak in public, and He gifted me in a way that I would be useful to Him.
Don’t ever feel that your limitations will limit God.  He is able, and He can enable you to do great things for Him.  Our responsibility is to remain faithful.  God will do the rest.

November 12 – “Good Works”

Day 316 – Read 2 Thessalonians 3

2 Thessalonians 3:13 – But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.

When we first moved to the mission field I was a little overwhelmed by all of the people who were begging. At every major street light, and every populated corner, it seemed like someone was there asking for money. At first, my heart was moved with compassion and I wanted to help them all. But, it wasn’t long until I realized I wasn’t able to help enough to even make a dent in the great need. I felt my heart go to the other extreme and become hardened to the need. Neither extreme is a healthy one.

In Thessalonica, it appears as if there were people not willing to work, and wanting to live off of the generosity of others. It is here that Paul writes his famous words: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” It seems as if he is taking a strong stand against those not willing to do their part.

Our tendency is to put everyone in the same boat. If one beggar is not worthy of our help because he is unwilling to work, or because he is going to use the money for drugs or alcohol, then all beggars must be unworthy. But, there are those who have a legitimate need, and should not be classified with those who don’t. So, Paul goes on to bring balance to the situation by saying, “do not grow weary in doing good.”

This was one of the outstanding characteristics of Jesus. Acts 10:38 says that everywhere Jesus went He was doing good. He did it, because God was with Him. If God is with us, we, too, will not get tired of doing good to those who have legitimate needs. Matthew 5:16 says that we are to let our light shine in such a way that men will see our good works and glorify God. When we do good, the needy person is helped, we are blessed, and God is glorified.

November 11 – “God’s Goodness”

Day 315 – Read 2 Thessalonians 1

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 – Therefore we also pray always for your that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Westminster Catechism says that the chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says that in whatever we do, we should do all to the glory of God. Jesus said that God is glorified when we bear much fruit (Jn. 15:8). These statements are all summed up in the verses before us today.

It is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom. He wants us to be blessed and fruitful. This is a result of God’s goodness. Throughout the Bible we find references to the goodness of the Lord. For example, Psalm 23: 6 says that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. In Psalm 31:19 it speaks of the greatness of God’s goodness. Psalm 33:5 says that the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. Jeremiah 31:14 tells us that God’s people will be satisfied with the goodness of the Lord. And Romans 2:4 tells us that the goodness of the Lord leads us to repentance.

It is the purpose of God (His good pleasure) that His goodness and grace will result in our faith being effective with works of power. That is how we walk worthy of His calling. When we are faithful and fruitful, God is glorified in and through us, and we are glorified in Him. That is my prayer for you today. May you walk worthy, be fruitful, experience the goodness of God, and glorify Him in all that you do.

November 10 – “The Spirit-filled Life”

Day 314 – Read 1 Thessalonians 5
1 Thessalonians 5:15-19 – See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.  16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  19 Do not quench the Spirit.

The Christian life is to be a Spirit-filled life.  When we yield to the Spirit within us, we will manifest the character of Christ and accomplish the will of God.  Jesus taught His disciples to love their enemies, to bless those that opposed them, to do good to those who hated them, and to pray for those who persecuted them.  Here, Paul reinforces the teaching of Jesus, and adds in verse 19, not to quench the Spirit.  The picture is that of throwing water on a fire.  The things mentioned in verses 15-18 are manifestations of the Spirit-filled life, and when we fail to do them we are quenching the Spirit in our lives.
First, we are to do good, not evil.  It is not wrong to defend or protect ourselves from those who want to do us harm.  But, our response to them should be to do good.  As soon our motive is to return evil for evil, we have quenched the Spirit and begun to do wrong.  We should leave all vengeance to the Lord.
Only a believer can rejoice in all things, because only a believer can claim the promise of God to work all things together for good.  We can rejoice because God is with us at all times, and we can rejoice because our future is secure.  We have a hope that will not fail.  This is also the motive for constant prayer.  It is not that we must spend all day on our knees, but, since God is with us, we can maintain constant communion with Him.
Finally, not everything that happens to us is good, nor is it the will of God.  But, giving thanks is the will of God because He is with us and will use it for our good.  We can always find something to be thankful for.  It is also the will of God that we do good, rejoice always, live in constant communion, give thanks, and don’t quench the Holy Spirit.  That is kingdom living.

November 9 – “Have Hope”

Day 313 – Read 1 Thessalonians 4
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 – But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
We are a people obsessed with living longer.  Billions of dollars are spent every year on exercise equipment or gym membership, vitamins, special diets, and doctor visits, in order to maintain our health and stay alive.  But, unless we are alive at the coming of the Lord, one of the certainties of life is that we all will die.  The thought of death can be terrifying to some.  There are people who live their whole lives fearing death, rather than enjoying life.
One of the things that affects us the most about death is the sorrow it brings when we lose a loved one.  At times, it can be the greatest pain we will ever experience.  Death seems so final.  But, after the death of Jesus on the cross, the Scriptures don’t refer to the death of a believer.  It uses terms like “fall asleep,” “departure,” and “put off my tent.”  Death is not the end.
The Thessalonians were grieving the death of their loved ones, and Paul writes to bring a new perspective to their loss.  It is okay to grieve, he says, but in the midst of your sorrow don’t lose your hope.  I have known people who have been so saddened by the death of a loved one that it paralyzed them for the rest of their life.  While it is okay to grieve, it should not control us for a long time.  Paul says we must look to the future.
If we believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection, then we should also believe that He is coming again and will be accompanied by our believing loved ones who have gone before us.  One day there will be a great family reunion and we will all be together again.  This knowledge doesn’t keep us from feeling sorrow at the loss of a loved one, but it does give us hope in the midst of our sorrow.  There is life after death, and we will be together to share it with our loved ones.


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