Our world is consumed with protecting investments. Seminars are replete with: give me your money and I will invest it and bring you dollars untold. As Paul closes this personal letter to Timothy he leaves him with one charge and it has nothing to do with the investment of money. Instead, he charged Timothy and us in turn, to invest and protect the gospel message. We are to “protect what has been entrusted to [us].” [2Tim 1:14]
He has entrusted us with the precious gospel message. We are to protect it because it is the life-giving message of hope. Practically we protect or guard this investment by being vigilant or intentional to stand firm in the faith. We conduct ourselves as a model of purity and righteousness. We are to be a Christ-like model in speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity being conscious about how we live and what we teach. Intentionally we are to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.” [1Tim 6:11] And we are to do it until “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ…” who is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”[1Tim 6:15-16]
We, who are believers, are charged with being the guardians of the TRUTH. How are we at guarding the investment Christ has left us?
Advent Series #2 1John 3 to 5 Compassion is the trait of sharing and caring for others in their time of need. The Apostle John lived his last years in Ephesus, but his heart is seen for the prisoners he ate, slept, and worked with on the Isle of Patmos. He never mentions that time other than in Revelation, but we can see his heart in this letter.
First, he recalls some have lost loved ones to death, and he mourns with them. He reminds them that if they were believers, they have entered eternity coming face to face with Christ. Don Wyrtzen wrote a hymn that shares this sentiment:
“But just think of stepping on shore-And finding it Heaven! Of touching a hand and finding it God’s! Of breathing new air-And finding it celestial! Of waking up in glory-And finding it home!”
The Apostle John wants us to keep the gospel message alive, and we do it as we “love other Christians.” After years of brutality as a prisoner himself, John could have been bitter. Instead, he comes alongside us to ask: how can you say that the love of God resides in you if you lack compassion for those in need?
It may be Advent, but the message is the same all year round: Christ is the gift God has given to us, and we are to share that gift with others.
When the month of March arrives, we say it came in like a lamb and will go out like a lion or the reverse. This year, due to the pandemic, we might use that same phrase. How will 2020 leave, and how will 2021 arrive? For me, I am ready for a new month and then a new year! In the meantime, as December arrives, I want to ask, are you and I ready to receive the Christ child? Or are we putting him on a shelf?
Many are facing a bleak Christmas and New Year because of illness or loss of a livelihood. Paul is a good example for us because he continued to boast of his relationship with God, even in hard circumstances. Not even a thorn in the flesh, which he asked the Lord to remove, could dampen his spirit. He said I am content with weakness, insults, trouble, and persecution. Also, Paul told the Corinthians, “I boast about you even in my suffering.” Can we say the same?
Advent is a perfect time to stop and reflect on God’s goodness in the midst of a hard time and give God praise. I have put together some Advent devotionals and will share them here each day to help you. It is hoped that with each day, you will join me in giving God praise!
Luke 8:26-39 Dr. Luke uses his pen to share with us that a true disciple loves as God loves and shows compassion as He does. In Luke 8:26-39, the focus is on the principle that works must accompany a disciple’s faith. James shared this same principle: “faith without works is dead.”
Dr. Luke shares the vibrant story of the healing power of Jesus. He removes the stigma of the devil’s works, which are impotent to His power, and as we read this story of the demoniac, we are confronted with the power of sin versus the healing power of Jesus. Jesus’ heart was touched with the compassion and love the Father has for the lost. It is His love that draws him to this Gentile that the question asked by the disciples might be answered: “who is this man?” This is a question Dr. Luke continues to present to his audience and answers through Jesus’ healing, rebuking the wind, and as he reverses the effect of the evil one’s power. In doing so, the disciples are given evidence that “the gospel, …is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” [Romans 1:16]
Lastly, Jesus, full of mercy for the swine herders, leaves them a disciple who is a witness to God’s power lest they say to God that they did not know. They are now without excuse, as Paul noted in [Romans 1:20b]. The healed demoniac is a lesson in discipleship. We are to be God’s witness, and reveal what God has done for us.
Luke 4&5 Are you satisfied with your life the way it is? It seems that those in Israel were, and when Jesus arrives on the scene, they are amazed, astonished, or filled with resentment. Returning to his hometown, he is selected to read from Isaiah in his Nazareth synagogue. The listeners were amazed at the gracious words coming from him—until He explained that God healed those who were Gentiles. In an instant, the listeners were transformed from meek and mild Dr. Jekyll to the evil Mr. Hyde and, in their rage, sought to kill him. Leaving Nazareth, he headed to Capernaum, where three events show he is empowered and anointed to heal by the Spirit. First, he heals a demon-possessed man, then heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever and lastly, he rebukes the unclean spirits. Many are astonished, but not all. Jesus encounters the religious leaders who call him a blasphemer because he forgave a paralytic of his sins. In fact, Luke sums up these amazing, astonishing encounters with this idea; the old is good enough, or as we say, don’t rock the boat.
Do we, too, respond, “The old is good enough;” when we are not ready for Jesus to change us or our situation? Do we feel comfortable with excuses like I am not prepared? Jesus is challenging us to be filled as He was with the Holy Spirit and alter our landscape with His power.
Haggai 1 & 2 Today, a refrain is heard: I have bills to pay, and whatever is leftover, I may give to the church. But, God is clear; your thinking is backward! “Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse; Test me and see if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing for you until there is no room for it all.” [Mal 3 author’s paraphrase] The point being: when we put God first, He blesses, and as the Israelites were experiencing, the reverse is also true. Is it any wonder then that Haggai came to the people and rebuked them for wrong priorities? Was it right for them to live luxuriously while the house of the Lord lay in ruins? Then he asked them to consider their priorities.
Haggai’s message was convicting! The people turned and put God first, and then God did just as Malachi said. Their crops rebounded, and their pocketbooks were replenished. God is clear: if I am first, I will be with you, and I will bless you.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” [Matt 6]
Is church and giving to the work of the Lord on the bottom of your list?
Unity is not a new idea. We read that even Jesus prayed for his disciples: “that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I am in you.” [Jn 17] Before him, the psalmist wrote: “how beautiful it is to be unified as brethren.” As the Father and Son are unified, we are to be as well. Our model is the Trinity, and we are to be the messengers of this unity to the world.
In Genesis, we read a sad story about disunity and a family that failed to model that principle. Abraham and Lot had lived side by side, but disunity came about over water and grasslands. Whereas Lot was feuding, fussing and fuming, Abraham sought unity: “Let there be no quarreling between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are close relatives.” [Gen 13:8] However, Lot chose to ignore this wise counsel and moved away from Abraham choosing his herdsmen and the well-watered plain of Jordan. He never returned even in his darkest hour. Lot’s decision is a lesson for us in what NOT to do. That is why we need Psalm 133:1,
“How wonderful, how beautiful, when brothers and sisters get along!”
Is there disunity in someplace in a relationship between you and another? Beloved: make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [Eph 4:3]
Do you feel like you are lost in the midst of the voices that are shouting? Do you fear your bleating won’t be heard? Beloved, the Good Shepherd hears your bleating and He is coming to your rescue.
Memo to self on Day 100: Make a joyful noise unto the Lord! Shout out praises to the Lord! Worship the Lord with joy! Enter his presence with joyful singing! The psalmist reminded himself that this is the day the Lord has brought about. He wrote: I will, and we will be happy and rejoice in it. [Ps 118]
Indeed, we are the sheep of his pasture. He called us out of the darkness of sin into the light, and one day we will see our Good Shepherd. What a blessing to know that He directs our steps and takes us to the refreshing quiet living water. He knows that rushing water and the swirling waters of today’s news is unnerving. It is here that our thirst is quenched, and our heart renewed. What a blessing to know that in His pasture, we find peace amid the storms. It is in His pasture we can feed on the lush green grass and lie down in peace. What a blessing to know that He is the Good Shepherd who leads us, for we require His tender care. What a blessing to know that out of His love He ransomed us with His blood.
Truly the Lord is good, and his mercy is everlasting. His truth endures to all generations. Therefore, serve Him with gladness and come before Him with singing.
Psalm 85 The author of this psalm is unknown to us but not to God. One thing we immediately pick up on is that this author knows God and His character and he extols this in poetic form.
He showed favor, restored the well-being of Jacob, pardoned the people, forgave all their sin, withdrew all your fury, and turned back from your raging anger. Then, because of these attributes, the writer felt bold enough to enter God’s space and pray: Will you revive us once more? Will you show your lovingkindness?
But also the author realizes all of this cannot come to pass until he listens to what God says and not return to his foolish ways.
Where are you wandering in the wilderness expecting God to act, but you have not done your part? You will find out all about God and you in His Word.
Do you talk to yourself? Let’s listen in on Asaph’s self-conversation.
Listen, God, life is not fair. You tell me to be humble, but I see the prosperous, and they are not! They are proud and pompous while I am poor and suffer adversity. They lack for nothing and live life with a “God owes me ” mentality. I am a man of integrity, and yet here I am facing problems. Where is my material prosperity, God? Why do I face challenges? If you are God, why am I suffering? Does this sound familiar? Asaph has a problem and we do as well. We fail to see life through the lens of the eternal perspective.
There are three lessons we should note. First, Asaph was envious. Envy is a sin that began in the Garden of Eden and is alive and well today. Secondly, Asaph shares, “If I had publicized these thoughts, I would have betrayed your loyal followers.” Today’s translation: I would become a stumbling block! Do we do the same without thinking what our grumbling might do to a young believer’s faith? Asaph then realized as he entered the precincts of God’s Temple; what he needed was cleansing. He pondered the consequences of being a stumbling block to others, so wisely, he sought God’s counsel. Lastly, in God’s presence, he saw the reality: We are here for one purpose:
to behold His beauty and to worship Him in all of His fullness.
In the parable of Luke 16, we see the point of it all. Lazarus was poor and needy, but in the end, he was the one whom God blessed. The rich man, not hardly. You see, he had the “God owes me mentality.” So, where are you in your thinking?