Day 68: 1 Timothy 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Timothy 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The Apostle Paul writes, in chapter four, about those who will depart from the faith and follow deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1). This is a stern warning to us today to test the spirits and keep our doctrine pure. Indeed Paul charges Timothy to make sure that he continues to teach sound doctrine (4:13) and continue in the doctrine that Paul taught (4:16).

When I was studying for the ministry at a Christian college, some of the students wanted to steer clear of any sort of doctrinal discussion.  They would say something like, “we have no creed but Jesus.” The problem I had with them is that is seemed like they wanted to avoid ALL doctrine. Don’t get me wrong, there are SOME doctrinal debates that are worthless (one only needs to read yesterday’s post for more on that point). But when we avoid all doctrine together, we really create our own doctrine or set of beliefs, a false doctrine. The doctrine or teaching that Paul shared with Timothy was good, sound doctrine and it was profitable for Timothy’s growth and the growth of the local church.

The first few verses of Chapter five are instrumental in figuring out how we should treat one another. Because of age and generational differences it can be easy to perceive things differently than others in the church. As a pastor it is crucial that I communicate in ways that are respectful and appropriate. Recognizing these differences and approaching members, who may be in error, in the way that I would approach respected members of my own family, can be a helpful. 

Paul writes, that believers are to take care of their own household (5:3). The burden for caring for elderly relatives, who cannot care for themselves,  should fall back to the family, not to the church (or the government).  The church had an elaborate system of taking care of widows, but only those who had legitimate need. There is wisdom in placing the care of our loved ones back in our hands and there is grace in taking care of the needs of those who have no other means.

FATHER, I pray that you would keep us from error and that we would be intent upon studying and teaching your word. I pray that our lives would exhibit the doctrine we hold to in your word. Keep us from idle chatter, but focused on the truth of the gospel. Give us grace in relating to one another who are of differing ages. Help us to treat one another with respect, even when a difficult discussion is in order. Thank you for the privilege we have of caring for one another and being united in caring for those who have no one else to care for them. We are grateful for your Word. Thank you for the great grace you have given me in shepherding your flock. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 67: 1 Timothy 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Timothy 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

1 Timothy is a pastoral epistle, meaning that Paul wrote it to another young pastor. When I first started at Little Escambia, I found it extremely helpful to read all the pastoral epistles over and over again during my first summer here. Paul shares keen spiritual truth as an apostle to a young man just beginning in ministry.

One of the things that jumps out at me when I read 1 Timothy is Paul’s warning about fables and endless genealogies (1:3-4).  Truth matters, but the things mentioned here tend to divide. Sometimes it is more important to know that the Lord is coming back (truth) than it is to worry and debate if some of the critters unleashed in Revelation 9 might actually be helicopters (I see how they would look that way to a generation returning from Vietnam… but in this generation, CRISPR kits are being sold to any adolescent with $450 who wants to learn how to “bio-hack” and so it is more and more conceivable that someone could bio-engineer those suckers into existence). The truth is, we don’t know exactly what those critters are and we could speculate for hours upon hours, but it wouldn’t get us any closer to Jesus, help us share our faith, or really encourage us in any real way and so it’s worth leaving those discussions behind to have a real one that will edify us in our faith.

Paul always remembered where he came from (1:15) and we would do well to follow his example of humility. Having faith and a good conscience are critical to ministering to people and Paul echoes this advice to Timothy (1:5 &19).  He solemnly states this in contradiction to those who have shipwrecked their faith (1:19-20).

In chapter two and three, Paul turns his attention to praying for those in governmental leadership and those who are qualified to be a pastor or deacon in the church. Different churches have different takes on these passages, but the reality is that these passages are there and they mean something. It is worth asking the question how do we honor the Lord in our churches according to these passages.

FATHER, thank you for your word that is truth and the sound doctrine that leads us to life everlasting in you through the blood of Jesus. We ask that you would guard us from being sidetracked by petty little side issues and that we would be focused on you. We pray for our leaders and ask for you to guide those who are an authority over us. We thank you for pastors and deacons. We pray that you would continue to call faithful individuals to the leadership of your church. Thank you for the grace of calling me to pastor at Little Escambia. I pray that you are glorified by your church. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

 

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 63: Colossians (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Colossians follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Paul had not met the people this letter is addressed too (1:2). He had never been to Colosse. He heard about this church through through his friend Epaphras  who shared about the church and everything that was going on (1:7-8).  Paul wanted to make sure that the members of this church knew that even though he didn’t plant their church, he was praying for their church (1:3, 9). He was praying for their knowledge and fruitfulness of the gospel among them (1:9-10).

Most of Paul’s letters have a purpose behind them. Generally a church is dealing with an issue, or several issues, as in the case of Corinth, and Paul writes a letter to settle a doctrinal question or dispute. We can look through Colossians and see the issue addressed in this letter is the sufficiency of Christ. So the first half of the book is rich with doctrinal content explaining the preeminence of Christ in creation and as the head of the church. Observe the doctrinal richness and clarity in Colossians 1:15-18 and 2:9.

SIDE NOTE: I won’t spend too much time here, but my Thesis Paper for my Bachelor’s Degree was about Christology (the Study of Christ) in Colossians

Before we go much further it is worth highlighting Colossians 1:28, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” The goal of the Christian life is to grow to maturity in Christ. Reading the word of God is helpful, but reading alone doesn’t bring maturity. We must apply his word to our lives, submit our character to Him and allow ourselves to be changed from the inside out. We should look more like Christ today than we did yesterday… to our spouses, to our children, to our bosses and to our workers (3:18-4:1)

When we were little we used to mark our height against different objects in the house to tell that we were growing. Tests were given in school to measure if we were growing in knowledge. But perhaps the most difficult measure was given to my parents as they trusted and tested me with responsibility to see if I was growing in maturity. And so it is with the Christian life. Mature believers recognize that they have a responsibility to help and encourage their younger brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s a good place to pause for meditation today. Am we growing in Christian maturity?

FATHER, Thank you for the honor we have to pray for others and even to pray for those we may have never met. We lift up our sister churches in our area and around the world and ask for knowledge of you and your will to abound. We pray for fruitful ministries filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. We thank you for the grace to grow more and more into the image of Christ and ask that we would be found faithful in yielding to you, Holy Spirit, and your word. We pray for maturity. Thank you for the grace of shepherding your flock. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 62: Philippians (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Philippians follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The Apostle Paul wants us to rejoice. He uses that word abundantly through out  Philippians ( 1:18, 1:26, 2:16-18, 2:28, 3:1-3, 4:4, 4:10). Which is strange considering the context. We know that he is in chained next to a Roman guard (1:13-14). We also know that some are preaching Christ and are envious of Paul and want to add affliction to his imprisonment (1:15-16). So where does all this rejoicing come from?

Paul is confident that God will finish what he started in the believers at Philippi (1:6).  He has found what it means to be content (4:12-13). He knows that even while he is chained to Roman guards, he is guarded by the peace of God (4:7) His rejoicing is tied to his certainty that God is in control of his circumstances. He recognizes that he has been placed there for a purpose and that perhaps the gospel would go out through the Roman guard through his witness (1:12-13).

As I write this I can’t help but rejoice over God’s timing and placement (it certainly isn’t always our own).  The Philippians knew that God could use Paul in jail, that’s partly how their church got started (Acts 16). With Philippi being a Roman colony, there were perhaps many there in the church who would have known (or known of) some of the folks that Paul was chained to.

FATHER, We rejoice in your sovereignty. We are grateful that we can pray for your Kingdom to Come and your will to be done, knowing that you are actively arranging all things to that purpose. We rejoice in you in all circumstances. We rejoice to know that you have allowed us to be in certain places as certain times for the sake of the gospel. Give us eyes to see the opportunities that are ever before us. We rejoice to see your hand order our world today. Thank you for the grace of leading your congregation. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 59: Galatians 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

oday’s reading comes from Galatians 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In chapter four Paul continues to write with both passion and personality as he attempts to persuade the churches of Galatia ( Galatians 1:2) to reject the false gospel of salvation through Old Testament covenant law (specifically circumcision).  Paul continues to be very adamant that whoever has introduced this heresy to the churches in Galatia is in serious sin (5:10).  Just a few verses later, Paul uses a graphic double entendre (5:12). In one sense he means the grossest understanding of the text, in that those stirring up strife would physically emasculate themselves. In another sense, he has eluded to the fact that those who preach a false gospel will face the wrath of God (1:8-9, 5:10), and suggests that they would cut themselves away from the covenant people of God.

Paul presses the church in Galatia to ‘love their neighbor as themselves’ (5:14) and to walk by the Spirit (5:16). The deeds of the flesh flow out of a failure to love their neighbor (5:19-21). The result of walking in the Spirit (fruit of the spirit) is Love, which is what Paul commanded in verse 14. Since the word fruit isn’t necessarily plural and the context is ‘loving our neighbor’, it is reasonable to think the the fruit of the spirit is love, and from love, flows the rest of the attributes that are listed (5:22-23). It would read something like this: love is joyful, love seeks peace, love bares all things, love is kind, love is good to others, love is faithful, love is gentle, love demonstrates self-control. The bottom line is that you can’t love your neighbor without walking in the Spirit (5:25) 

We are reminded in chapter six that love looks out for others. It restores those who have fallen. Love causes a humble carefulness when we do restore others. Love causes us to share what we have learned from our teachers.

FATHER, we thank you for the gospel of Jesus Christ that sets us free from sin. We pray that you would guard our hearts from heresies. We ask that our love for you would be pure. We are grateful for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We pay he would produce the fruit of love in all of it’s forms in our lives. We thank you that you work in us that which we cannot work in our selves. Thank you for the grace to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 58: Galatians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Galatians 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Paul uses some very strong language in Galatians chapter one. He says if anyone preaches another gospel (a false gospel), let him be accursed (damned to Hell) (1:8-9). Believing a false gospel and never trusting the true gospel does lead to Hell. While Paul is harsh, he is honest. It’s worth noting that he writes with passion because this is not a small issue.

He even goes out of his way to say even if “we or an angel” speak a false gospel, let them be accursed (1:8). Coincidentally at least two religions (Islam and Mormonism) are based on accounts of angels visiting “prophets” to say that the gospel Paul preached was all wrong and shared their version of the gospel. We remember that from our reading just a few days ago that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

The false gospel and “work” of the Law at stake here was circumcision. The Jewish council had already ruled that converts to Christianity need not be circumcised to be saved (Recorded in Acts 15 which Paul recounts here in Galatians 2:1-10). Some people had come in behind Paul with the false doctrine of salvation by circumcision. All through Galatians, as we will see tomorrow, Paul defends the gospel against this heresy.

Side Note: Context is important. We read the phrase “works of the Law” (2:16) through western eyes and all we hear is the word, “works.” We don’t always take time to understand the “work of the Law” as used here, was related to Jewish rituals, specifically circumcision (5:1-6). If we aren’t careful, we create a false dichotomy between works (in general) and faith.  The specific issue at stake is that we cannot be saved by keeping the ceremonial law, but we can only be saved by faith. This is the way Abraham was saved (3:6). True faith manifests itself in good (not ceremonial) works (Ephesians 2:10, James 2:14).  As we will see near the end of chapter three in Galatians, the ceremonial law served the purpose of pointing us to Jesus for salvation (3:24-25).

I realize I’m a little wordy. To put it simpler: We are saved from our bad works (sin),  unto good works (the fruit of the Spirit), by the work of Jesus (Substitutionary Atonement), that we receive through faith (Believing God).  The rituals of Judaism (such as circumcision) pointed to our sin, but didn’t cover or remove our sin. To go back to Jewish rituals denies the power of the cross to forgive our sin, to reconcile us to God and fill us with His Spirit.

FATHER, We are grateful for salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. We ask that we would live in the full power of our salvation. Keep us from idols and false gospels that would attempt to lure us away from hope we have found in you. I pray that you are glorified in our lives this week. Thank you for the grace to shepherd and lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 57: 2 Corinthians 13 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Corinthians 13 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

There is no greater folly than to be self deceived. It’s one thing for someone to maliciously trick you and cause you to stumble. It’s another thing to trick yourself. Yet, it happens all the time even to the best of us.

I know for me, some one of the things I lie to myself about are thing pertaining to my weight. I tell myself that “It would be bad if I didn’t eat cake for their birthday party” or “I’ll burn it off on the elliptical later.” I’ll weigh and think, “well it’s just water weight” or “I’ deserve this high calorie food because I skipped breakfast today.” It’s not that I engage in the bad or destructive behavior concerning high calorie food, I flat out lie to myself about it. I rationalize it and make it seem as though I’m doing the right thing, when I’m actually doing the wrong thing as it concerns my goal of losing weight.

But that’s just food. What if we lie to ourselves about something infinitely greater than calories and pounds? What if we lied to ourselves about our relationship with God? What if we deceived ourselves into thinking we were true Christians, when we really weren’t?

Paul tells the Corinthians to examine their faith (13:5). They need to be sure that they are the real deal. They don’t want to get to the day of judgement and realize that they bought into a fake faith (Matthew 7:21-23). Faith that was all about what others saw, but wasn’t of any real substance. They were to examine their hearts and lives and look for the fruit of what it is to belong to God. Where we abide in him, fruit will abound (John 15:4). If we continue in immaturity and never seem to grow or produce the fruit of godliness in our lives, we should be concerned for the salvation of our souls.

FATHER, We ask that you would  examine our lives. Help us to see and know that we belong to you. Give us great grace to live godly lives and to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit alive in us. I pray that you would test us and if we fail the test that we would come to you for genuine, saving faith. Thank you for your grace in causing us to examine ourselves so that we might be absolutely sure that we belong to you. Thank you for the grace to shepherd your church. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 55: 2 Corinthians 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Corinthians 7-9 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Sometimes sorrow is necessary. Paul had written a stern letter to the Corinthians that had caused them grief. His desire wasn’t to hurt their feelings, but to bring them to a place of repentance. We live in a culture that is increasingly afraid to hurt feelings, but sometimes hurting feelings is necessary for someone to experience genuine, godly sorrow.

There is a difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow (7:10). Worldly sorrow is being sorry you got caught. Maybe you would be glad to do it again if you could guarantee that no one would find out. Godly sorrow is being sorry that you ever did such a thing to begin with. Sorry that your heart would be so opposed to God that you would even have acted that way. Godly sorrow agrees with God about the seriousness of sin and truly grieves over your condition. Godly sorrow is what leads to repentance. You’ll never  find real repentance apart from Godly sorrow.

In Chapters eight and nine, Paul turns his attention to giving and generosity. He shares about the generosity of other churches in the midst of affliction (8:2-3) as well as the model of Christ (8:9). He reminds the Corinthians of two facts concerning our giving to the work of the LORD. He encourages them that, “God loves a cheerful giver” and that our gifts aren’t to be given under grudging circumstances (9:5,7).  We are to give with a joyful attitude. He also reminds the Corinthians that we reap what we sow (9:6,10). Not to say that we get more money because we give more money.

SIDE NOTE: We Reap what we sow is true with all the spiritual disciplines. We gain joyfulness when we give joyfully. We gain knowledge when we study God’s word. We have a deeper understanding of God the more we talk to God in prayer. We get the blessing by being with God’s people that we can’t get when we don’t gather with God’s people. There is always a fruit to doing the right thing spiritually.

FATHER, thank you for godly sorrow that brings about genuine repentance. I pray that we would never shy from speaking your truth in love so that others might experience eternal life in Christ. Thank you for the basic instructions in giving generously that we received from your word today. I pray that we would all be joyful and generous givers because of how Jesus gave to us. Show us how to be diligent in our sowing so that we might be bountiful in our reaping. Thank you for the grace to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 54: 2 Corinthians 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Corinthians 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Chapter four is encouraging. Paul  encourages us to endure when we face trials and opposition in the Christian life. I appreciate Paul’s charge, “do not lose heart” (4:1, 16). He compares the present trials to light afflictions in light of eternity (4:17-18).

I’m looking forward to the return of Christ when all is set right. I look forward to the glorious resurrection body that will allow us to experience the presence of the LORD (5:1-8).  This great expectation that we have in Christ should provoke us to live lives set apart for His glory (5:15). We are new creations and we no longer have to live as we once did, we are free in Christ (5:17). As those who have been set free, we are in the position of preaching the ministry of reconciliation to our fellow men so that they might know and experience the grace and forgiveness of God as we have (5:19-21).

Chapter six highlights two results from being made new in Christ. One is that we should press others to enter the Kingdom now while they can. “Now is the acceptable time; Behold now is the day of Salvation” (6:2). The other is that we should live holy lives. We don’t become holy to be saved, but when we are saved, we should start the process of becoming holy. This includes being careful of our closest associations. Paul warns us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (6:14).

FATHER, Thank you for the grace and ministry of Reconciliation. We give you all the praise and the glory for making us New Creations in Christ. We ask for grace and encouragement to endure whatever struggles we would face in this life. May they be viewed as light and momentary afflictions compared to the glory of Eternity. We ask for earnestness on our part to spread the gospel of reconciliation and holiness in our lives. Thank you for the grace to shepherd your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 53: 2 Corinthians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Corinthians 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online. You can get a copy of the New in 90 reading schedule here.

Paul begins 2 Corinthians by praising God for his comfort (1:3-7). I am thankful for the grace of God in comforting us when we go through various trials. I am grateful for the opportunity to comfort others because we have been comforted (1:4). The Christian has a

In chapter two, Paul advised the church on how to forgive those who have been addressed by the church for their sin. Sometimes we don’t take pause to think about how Satan might attempt to manipulate us (2:11). This is one of the reasons why it is so important to walk close to God everyday. If we are out of God’s word, the lines get blurry and legalism and an attitude of superiority can set in. We are not to hold people’s sins continually before them… ultimately, God is their judge.

So when someone repents we are to forgive, just as we have been forgiven.  We have to be careful not to let Satan rob us of the joy and freedom found in forgiving people their sins against us, because we want to nurse a grudge.  Satan uses this attitude of unforgiveness to cripple us not the one against whom we nurse the grudge.

FATHER, Thank you for how you have brought comfort to us in the midst of the trials that we face. We are grateful to be able to comfort others with the comfort you have given us. We pray for grace and discernment in comforting others. We ask for grace to forgive those who have hurt us. Guard us from unforgiveness. Thank you for the grace to lead your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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