Monthly Archives: October 2014

Jeremiah 29-30; Titus 1

If I had witnessed the destruction of my community and were forcibly carried off, the acceptance of the new rule and order would be the last thing on my mind. Survival and fighting my captor would be top priorities. So imagine how the Hebrews felt when they read Jeremiah’s God given instructions:

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; Increase in number there; do not decrease. also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  Jeremiah 29:5-7

Perhaps they were disappointed with God’s directions, but his mandate was clear. Settle down and seek the peace and prosperity of your new home town. Their captors were probably expecting to have to strong-arm the Hebrew people on a daily basis. Imagine their surprise when the Hebrews didn’t put up a fight, but dug in and made Babylon home. The newly vanquished were peaceful and prosperous; their community stood out from the other foreigners. Babylonians had to be asking why. If they followed the clues, they would be led to their God, Jehovah.

God’s instructions are often counter intuitive. We wonder why in the world He leads us into the circumstances and places He does and then his Word sounds out through the centuries:

“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” declares the Lord, “and bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29:11-14.

These are not just words to toss out to 20-somethings contemplating their futures. They are an anchor to the present. Too often I get lost wondering what God wants me to do in the future that I neglect the very moment He has given me. I have been guilty of pleading with God to send me a message about the future down on silver platter. In response, He has asked me to rest in the knowledge that He has it all under control; He alone holds the plans in the palm of His hand. A heart that is at peace stands out. So much that it causes those around us to seek the clues as to why. God work that kind of trust into my heart.

Klueh

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Jeremiah 27-28; 2 Timothy 4

Two prophets give conflicting messages in Jeremiah. One speaks of a hard road that requires obedience in circumstance. The other casts a promising future of peace, restoration and reduced sentence. Only one will be right.

As Paul writes to Timothy, he tells of a time when people will turn their ears to hear what they want to hear.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4, NLT.

God’s sovereignty speaks from the testaments. Sovereign over nations. Sovereign over individuals as they stand alone.

Give them this message for their masters: ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: With my great strength and powerful arm I made the earth and all its people and every animal. I can give these things of mine to anyone I choose. Jeremiah 27:4-5, NLT.

And:

16 The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. 18 Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. 2 Timothy 4:16-18, NLT.

Paul speaks of roads that require obedience in circumstance too.

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. 2 Timothy 4:1-2, NLT.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. 2 Timothy 4:5, NLT.

God, you are sovereign in all things. All things. In peace and in suffering, in times favorable or not. Help me to hear your correction and rebuke, and give me strength to speak with patience and love in difficult situations.

Courtney (66books365)

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Jeremiah 25-26, 2 Timothy 3

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

is one of my favorite verses when I’m not sure where to go. Paul meant for it to be an anchor for Timothy as well.

The twist for me was the chapter that back-ends this verse. Paul is warning his disciple about how things are going to get bad…and go to worse. “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (v.12-13).

Paul gives Timothy a heads up about the terrible things that will come in the end days. He takes him to the worst possible scenario and guarantees persecution for the godly Christ-follower. For all that he saw and experienced, Paul knew it wasn’t going to get any better.

So what was his consolation for Timothy’s unavoidable fate?

This would have been a great opportunity for him to say, “Hey, Timothy—just conjure up some feelings of courage. Remember how you felt when you were first saved. Just use those feelings to get you through. Don’t you remember that mountain top experience?”

Or Paul could have thrown in a perfect Disney ending and told him to just believe in himself. Isn’t the power every hero is lacking deep down in him somewhere? When things get rough, I’m sure self-confidence would be all Timothy would need.

No, instead Paul leverages the power of God in his story and the authority of scripture to impute Timothy with staying power.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,  and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (v. 14-15).

At the end of a rope, I know my feelings won’t give me the fuel I need to keep on. When I promised my wife that I would love her and continue to love her, I knew that the momentum of the feelings I felt on our wedding day wouldn’t see us through to our golden oldies. When things get dark in our relationship, I sit down and look at our vows. What did I say I would do in writing? Returning to these words reminds me the foundation of our relationship is a covenant promises to look out for the other’s best interest.

I think the same is true with me and God. Only His vows to me are timeless and inerasable. He is incapable of default on His side of the promise when he says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

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Jeremiah 23-24; 2 Timothy 2

What do we do with God’s Word once we hear it?

German poet and philosopher Goethe stated “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.” Simply put, Goethe believed that having knowledge requires doing something with that knowledge in order for it to be effective. I believe that unknowingly, Goethe was summarizing what had already been stated many years prior… that we’re required to do something with scripture we read.

Several weeks ago I wrote a commentary on Ephesians and its relationship to the men in my men’s group. In the commentary I wrote how many times I observed men use their job and their accomplishments as a ‘business card’ of sorts to define who they were, instead of responding that they were son’s of the Living God and all works in progress. But… how do we get through difficult times? Being a work in progress is a good starter about who we are, but is there ever an end point in the progression process? And when difficult times surround us, does progress stop?

I thought it fitting that today’s reading, based on 2 Timothy 2, answers those questions through strength and perseverance!

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also… 2 Timothy 2:1-2

When thinking back on how much what men do defines them… we’re doers… fixers… leaders. But I don’t think of this as a gender-related issue… rather a perspective we all need to consider when it comes to our role in God’s plan for the church… just as the apostle Paul did in chapter 2 of his second letter to Timothy. While I understand from a practical perspective we just quit our job and move on, but in my opinion, we need to pray and pray hard for wisdom and discernment from God. These can help to provide clarity as to where God would like us to be, just as Paul reminded Timothy to never be ashamed of Christ or his fellow disciples, and that Timothy was a part of something God has done for him and wants to do for others through him.

Here, Paul, modeling these important instructions, with love and compassion, in this passage and throughout his letters, Paul addresses Timothy as his child, a term of endearment conveying parental authority… I’m telling you this as my spiritual son, so listen up.

Additionally, Paul’s words are usually translated at the beginning of 2 Timothy 2 as be strong, putting the weight on Timothy as his source of strength during difficult times. However, there are direct translations that speak Paul’s words as be strengthened, thus clarifying the source of strength, through grace from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and not coming from within. So, too, does Paul’s words apply to us as we go through life… we need to be continuously strengthened through prayer to Jesus and by experiencing His grace.

The apostle directed his disciple to the grace of Jesus even before instructing Timothy about his role in the process. What Paul pointed out applies to us. We need to be continuously strengthened by experiencing fresh infusions of the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

And like Timothy, we need to be strengthened as we have work to do in God’s kingdom. And, like Timothy, we’re charged with delivering God’s word to others… 2 Timothy 2:2 states “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” In this verse, Paul was reminding Timothy that a majority of what he needed to share was received by word of mouth as Biblical instruction was done in the New Testament… by direct word of mouth. Paul’s message was confirmed in the presence of many witnesses and his role was established by entrusting it to faithful men, meaning to bring it before reliable individuals who will teach God’s Word and pass it along, a test of faithfulness. How many of us take what we’ve learned and entrust it to others? Certainly an area where we could all do better…

We, as God’s children, cannot continue to simply gather and read God’s Word. Instead, like Paul, we’re called to be disciples who spread God’s Word… receiving It and giving It away… only then, can we experience the strengthening power God desires to provide.

Greg Stefanelli

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Jeremiah 20-22; 2 Timothy 1

“If I say, I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.”

(Jeremiah 20:9)

This is hands down one of my favorite verses.

It so excellently captures the heart of a prophet, bringing God’s word, being an outcast because of it, but nevertheless, unable to contain it.

– – –

It was a good reminder coupled with Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 1 where he says in verse 6: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands…”

Whatever ministry God has called us into, there will be a time where we need to re-kindle that flame

That uncontrollable passion we once had eventually begins to fade and we need to be reminded once again that God has called us to somewhere,

someplace,

someone,

To care for them, bear the good news to them, give them a message from the Lord.

Sometimes we need to be reminded how powerful the flame of that word is, that we can’t hold it in even if we want to.

I know for my wife and I, we recently had to make a big decision about whether to continue our pursuit of career / full-time church ministry, or to bow out now, work other jobs, and serve God there. We had a really rough year in ministry, and the next one will have its ups and down as well if we continue.

But after speaking with a good mentor, we were reminded to stir up that calling like Paul tells Timothy, and to accept the times when we may feel ashamed or outcast because of God’s word.

So whatever your ministry is, Rekindle that flame through prayer and the word, and  don’t try to hold back the calling that God has for you right where you are.

Sam

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Jeremiah 17-19; I Timothy 6

Jeremiah 18:5, 6 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!”

I have never tried to sculpt pottery, but I acquired an interesting set of handmade and individually painted pieces made by a Bulgarian master potter. They have rough, terra cotta bases with smooth, shiny harvest-gold backgrounds and earthy, green and brown images baked into them by the artist’s whim. Each piece is unique in its purpose – a large fat-bellied pitcher for water, a long-neck wine carafe capped with a lady’s delicate face; a half dozen mugs with thumbprint handles to sip from Bohemian crowns of funny-faced urchins; large, scooped out bowls designed with separated rings of non-repeating swirls, lines, and scalloped edges; and heavy plates emblazoned with proud peacocks.

How long it took the potter to produce each of these pieces, I wonder sometimes. And how many pieces were started, flattened, and reshaped on the potter’s wheel before placed in the fire for hardening? How many others were found cracked and thrown in the scrap heap upon inspection?

Like pottery, says the Lord, we are pliable in His hands. He is able to shape us through our family of origin, significant events, daily trials and temptations, revelation through His word, and divine intervention. As His wheel turns and His hands smooth and etch His unique design in each of us, we can yield eagerly to His touch or become rigid and in danger of breaking. Jeremiah 19:11 “Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot be made whole again…”

How can we become His masterpiece, vessels of honor, and how will we avoid being dashed into pieces, for which there is no superglue or fixing us in the end?  I Timothy 6:11 “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” As we trust Him and hope in Him, the Lord’s creative Spirit spins into our lives righteousness and godliness, and as we sway to His touch, He presses down a sturdy base of faith, whirls rings of patience, and gently hollows out the inside, deep and wide for filling with His love.

Then we will be like yet another image of beauty and strength produced by the Lord’s care. Jeremiah 17:7, 8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

Fashion me each day with Your skillful hand, Oh, Lord!

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Jeremiah 14, 15, 16; 1 Timothy 5

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. 1Timothy 5:1-2

Paul’s first letter to Timothy is full of instruction in how Timothy should be conducting himself in ministry and as a believer; and it continues today to promote the same behavior for me. The verses above stand out to me as an extension of what Jesus referred to as the second most important commandment…to love my neighbor as myself.

Paul reminds me to ‘not rebuke but to encourage’. To rebuke means to find fault with or reprimand severely; and interestingly the origins of the word stem from the French word that means ‘to hack down.’ I think of times that I have been rebuked, more often in an unloving way, and I remember feeling like I had been hacked to pieces with the tongue. It has torn me down, and made my heart harden. It has caused me to build up walls of defense, and even, at times, turn my eyes away from God. Often, when I have done something that may warrant rebuke, I know it and am already chastising myself; I don’t want or need someone else to highlight my wrongs.

What I desire instead is encouragement. I want to be treated in a way that helps me make better choices, that reassures me that I am still valuable, still worthy. I want to be honored as a child of God. I want to be loved back into life.

Paul tells me to treat each person, according to their age, as family – older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters. I am to honor them and respect them, and encourage them in life and in their journey with the Lord. I am to love them the way that I also want to be loved.

He also stresses the importance of purity. I believe that this purity relates to being chaste, morally pure in regards to the opposite gender and innocence; but I don’t think that’s all it means. ‘Purity’ also relates to truthfulness, authenticity, and freedom from anything that debases, contaminates, or pollutes, in this case, the relationship.

My walk with Christ is about relationship. Initially, my journey is connecting with Him, building relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then from the fruit of my relationship with God, stems relationship with others – the opportunity to show a piece of God to other people, while also seeing a piece of Him through them in return.

Yesappa, Thank You for Your relationship with me. Thank You for loving me and reassuring me throughout my journey. Help me remember to be an encourager to others, rather than a fault finder. Help me use my words to build up, rather than hack down. Help me be pure toward everyone I meet, in regards to moral uprightness, and also authenticity. Help me offer freedom to others as You offer freedom to me. Help me to love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Blessings – Julie (writing from the U.S.A.)

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Definitions and etymology found at www.dictionary.com.

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