Week 39, Day 5
September 30, 2022
Scripture: 1 John 2
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, love for the Father is not in you. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful people, the lust of their eyes and their boasting about what they have and do—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15–17)
There is eternal life for those who are in Christ. We are called to remain in Him and seek to obey the will of God.
This is one of those prescriptive moments in the Bible where we are told what is good and beneficial, but the execution and carrying out the prescription is often lacking.
I’m not so good with the prescriptive scriptures of the Bible. “Do not love the world…” often becomes a greater temptation to love the world! Have you noticed that in your own life? Someone tells you that you can’t have something, and all the sudden you want it more. You can’t have the cake, don’t eat it! Well, then I want cake, and I want to eat it too!
So how do we heed the counsel of God’s Word? In our own power, it doesn’t go so well. John here points us to the anointing we’ve received to belong to God, and have his help for us. He keeps teaching us and forming us. We remain in him. His guidance, his forgiveness his love…it keeps working and shaping us.
“Do not love the world” becomes less prescriptive and more instructive for me as I keep praying and reflecting on the text. I’m guided to love God and remain in the Father. I’m drawn to him as I’m drawn away from the world. As I look to God, the less pursuit of the world and love for it I have.
Reflect on the love of God and be drawn to Him.
And go eat some cake!
Week 39, Day 4
September 29, 2022
Scripture: 1 John 1
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:5–9)
We are called to be a people of the light. Part of stepping into the way of God is to come out of darkness and repent of the way of sin, death and darkness that has pervaded our lives. We have community by coming out of the darkness and walking in the light of God.
To do this, there must be confession of sins. We cannot have the genuine community we are called to if we are not honest about ourselves and the situations we find ourselves in. To ignore our sin, to gloss over it, is to diminish the work of God that’s on display in Jesus. There is freedom in Christ to confess him as Lord and confess our sins as well.
He is faithful and just, and forgives us. His mercies are new every morning. May we find unity in the healing forgiving love of Jesus Christ.
Week 39, Day 3
September 28, 2022
Scripture: Titus 3
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4–7)
Jesus is our Savior. We are made new, because of Him!
If you have been reading along with me in the New Testament, this is not new news. But as I’ve been reading along in the book of Romans in other studies, this passage is startingly clear. It is a succinct phrasing of much of Paul’s writing. Jesus is Lord and has rescued us from sin and death.
It has me thinking today, “why does Paul need to clarify this point to the degree he does in almost all of his writing?”
There is, I think, the temptation and trouble for us to think that our righteousness comes from our religious activity. There is, perhaps also, the temptation or trouble of thinking that salvation comes by some other person, by some other way.
Paul must know, inspired by the Spirit, that the generations of God’s people will be challenged in their faith, and tempted to compromise their faith. It appears so in Titus, that people are denigrating the name of Jesus and his sacrifice. There are those who believe that they can be made righteous through their religious activity.
Yet Paul clears up any notion of where our righteousness comes, through Jesus alone.
Remind yourself of this foundational truth today: Christ is Lord, through his great mercy you are redeemed, renewed and righteous.
Week 39, Day 2
September 27, 2022
Scripture: Titus 2
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11–14)
There is a word that we have trouble saying, “No.”
But that’s just what Titus is encouraged with here from Paul as we consider how to live godly lives. Through the Grace of God, it empowers us to say “no” to the worldly pleasures and ungodliness that surrounds us.
Salvation has come to us all through Jesus Christ, and we have a decision to make. Will we honor God with our lives and offer unwavering fidelity to him, or will we honor the world and choose our selfish desires? Will we say “Yes” to God and “No” to the world?
God’s grace empowers us to say “no” to worldly passions.
It seems we have used God’s grace as an excuse at times to say “yes” now, and ask for forgiveness later. But the really enlightening thing today is to realize that his grace actually empowers us to say “no” to sin, to begin with, from the start.
Lean on God’s grace today, to choose Christ, his kingdom, and his ways. There is forgiveness when you fail, but know that he also empowers you to say yes to him, and no to ungodliness today.
Will you say “Yes!” to God?
Through the gift of salvation today in Christ Jesus, you can!
Week 39, Day 1
September 26, 2022
Scripture: Titus 1
“Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” (Titus 1:8–9)
When it comes to choosing who we will follow in our faith, we ought to look at the heart of the leader. In today’s world, you can choose any number of people to follow. You can listen to podcasts, catch a sermon and service on YouTube. You have 100 or so options within 30 miles of your house.
There are no shortage of leaders. Who ought you choose to follow?
Paul’s counsel is for the selection of elders to lead and care for congregations throughout the region. Many times, those who are chosen as leaders are charismatic, have something to offer as far as leadership skills. They are organized, wealthy, skilled speakers and have leadership charisma.
Paul’s emphasis is on the character and faith of the leader. Do their children love the Lord? Do they seek the heart of God and follow his ways? Can they encourage others with sound doctrine? Are they hospitable? Are they holy and upright?
We are wise to consider who ought to leads us and care for us. I’m afraid we are more intrigued by charisma of personality, than the character of the person. We often give the wrong people too much control and say in our life who ought not have anything to say!
May we trust in God and seek people to lead and teach us who have evidence in their life of a surrendered and holy heart given to God.
Are they hospitable? Are they gentle and kind? Do they remind you of Jesus in the Bible?
Choose for yourself leaders who fit this character, they love what is good and seek what is holy.
Grow into that kind of leader yourself. Walk with the Lord and seek his ways.
Let him lead your life and surround yourself with people who are doing the same.
September 22 – 23, 2022
Scripture: 2 Timothy 3-4
2 Timothy 4:18
18The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
2 Timothy 4:6–10
6For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near.
7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
8Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
9Do your best to come to me quickly,
10for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.
If we can presume something, that Demas here is the same Demas in Colossians 4:14, and Philemon 24, than it appears a fellow coworker in Christ has dropped out of ministry. We don’t get too much in the text. But perhaps this is a part of the encouragement that Paul is offering Timothy.
We all face discouragement, and the pressures of the world are many. The final portions of this letter are a fair warning that it won’t be easy for Timothy as the temptations are many, but don’t fall away. Keep preaching. Keep spending time in the Word of God. It is the source of all that he needs to effectively care for the church, build up the believers, correct the wrongs and guide the church forward.
Please consider for your own life how you might finish strong and run the race well. Demas had the best of friends, who wrote scripture even! Yet he appears to have fallen away because of a love for the world.
Be cautious in your own life. Run the race, join Paul in the fight. Don’t give up!
Week 38, Day 3
September 21, 2022
Scripture: 2 Timothy 2
Here’s a lesson on how to conduct ourselves in today’s world:
“Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:22–26)
What if we were to take the counsel to Timothy and apply it to our own lives? There is so much wise instruction for us as we navigate our faith in today’s world:
Flee evil, pursue righteousness.
Don’t engage in foolish and stupid arguments.
Gently instruct our opponents, in hope that they would turn to God.
Today, pick one of these areas, and pursue it with a heart towards honoring God with your life and caring for others.
God be with you!
Week 38, Day 2
September 20, 2022
Scripture: 2 Timothy 1
“That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)
“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:14)
You can trust in God. That’s the focus of today’s passage. We can trust that God will care for us and meet all of our needs. So for Paul, and us, we go out as herald’s of the good news of Christ. We can, with confidence share the hope of Christ, no matter the circumstances of our own lives.
When we face trials and great difficulty, it can feel like we can’t trust God and we must lean on our own strength and understanding. The opposite is advised for us here, in fact we are challenged to guard what we know to be true, Jesus is Lord and King, Savior of the world.
Trust in him! The Holy Spirit is there to help us through every step. Trials may come, but God is with you.
Week 38, Day 1
September 19, 2022
Scripture: 1 Timothy 6
“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17)
Put your hope in God.
Why is it that when the pressure of our finances come upon us, we struggle to put our hope in God? It seems like a no brainer that we should put our hope in God when times are tough, but that is not always how we respond, is it?
What I find is that when things go up in price, my mind goes to “I need more money.”
When the trouble of wealth falls upon us all, we ought to say, “I need Christ!”
The Lord teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that we need not worry about what we will eat or what we will wear, but that God will care for all of us and meet our daily needs. He says, “Give your primary concern to the Kingdom of God, seek it first, above all else. Trust me to take care of you.” Matthew 6:33 (Jordan Paraphrase)
Here Paul gives similar counsel. Generosity is what matters. Opening our hands with loving kindness is what matters! Being stingy, fighting for every last dollar, looking out for self… there’s no room for that in the church. Generosity is what it is all about!
I get that times are tough. I’m deeply frustrated with my gas and grocery bill. It is very difficult right now for most everyone I know. While the temptation is to get put our hope in making more and getting more money, the answer to our troubles is kindness. Give to others and watch how generosity changes your heart and others.
God will more than meet your need as you seek first his kingdom and righteousness. We function in the world knowing that God is King and he is caring for us. We can live generously because our life is rooted in the kingdom of God. Seek Him and His Kingdom above all else!
Is there someone you can bless and encourage today?
Week 37, Day 5
September 16, 2022
Scripture: 1 Timothy 5
“Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:22)
I’ve stayed silent on much of the controversial passages in 1 Timothy. But today I’m feeling convicted to share my conviction. If there is something that I can be clearer on, let me know. Don’t let this keep you from a conversation with me!
Much of Timothy for me is contextual. I don’t take it as literal as other passages of scripture. That often gets me in trouble with people who I deeply respect and care about. The letter to Timothy has such wonderful counsel for us, if we can draw from it the principles in their spirit, as opposed to literal legalism that can squelch the spirit in which it is written.
Paul is concerned that people who are in need are being neglected. A situation with widows is proving much for Timothy to manage. The testimony of the church, its witness, is being compromised because people are not being cared for, particularly widows.
So Paul gives a plan to care for them. In that context, it makes sense. In our context, should we build up a policy on who gets cared for based on this situation here in Timothy’s church?
Or do we take the counsel that Paul offers here and overlay it as a guidance for us in the decisions that we make?
I try to choose the latter. The instructions are all about caring for people. If there are those who are in need and their needs are not being met, then we better care for them, and figure out what’s getting in the way.
If we as Christians aren’t caring for our family, then we need to get back on track.
What gets me into trouble with this sort of interpretive style is that people will then tell me that I’m not taking the Bible literally.
I suppose the accusation is true. There are lots and lots of passages I take literally! Jesus truly rose from the dead! I take that literally! Yet there are others that I am open to reading in a different way. Here in Timothy, I’m wanting to read with a bit of nuance, understanding that this seems like a very specific situation that needs addressed. There is wisdom to be learned by Paul, wisdom that comes from God. So I want to watch and listen how Paul corrects and directs his protégé.
Consider with me for a moment across some of Paul’s other writing and how we interpret it.
Paul deals with sin in 1 Corinthians and casting out the sexually immoral. Why aren’t we taking that with the same literalism that is often projected on 1 Timothy? When’s the last time someone with immoral behavior was cast from the community?
I know elders who need to have been rebuked in front of a congregations, but that never happens. Paul teaches that to Timothy here. When’s the last time you saw or heard that? I know women who are told to be silent in the church. How silent do they need to be?
This letter has all sorts of makings for conflict, especially in the 21st century. Literal reading does not help build unity or glory to God.
It seems to bring about legalism that always bears the fruit of hypocrisy. Am I wrong here, in this proposition?
How do we pick and choose what is literal or not? This isn’t ala carte theology. It’s not, pick your favorite and ignore the rest. I get accused of that, I get it. I’m trying not to do that.
Here’s how I interpret what Paul is doing in 1 Timothy. This is the guidance that I gleam from him:
What will glorify God and what won’t?
That’s the spirit of Paul here, in everything. The sin that entangled the Corinthians needed delt with and removed. The women in the context of Timothy’s church addressed in 1 Timothy were apparently incredibly disruptive and gossiping. This sin, it needed to be silenced. Widows were neglected, they needed to be cared for. There were things going on in the community that were far from glorifying God, they needed to be stopped and behavior needed correction.
Today, the circumstances that surround us are different, for sure. But the principle at the heart of all of Paul’s correction and guidance is: What will glorify God and what won’t? Let’s make sure we glorify God in all we do and cease what doesn’t.
I think he teaches it to Timothy here:
“Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:22)
Be quick to care for others. Be sure to avoid sin.
So women can talk in church. So can children.
Men are to be held to a high standard, especially elders because they are leaders. People will look to them for how they glorify God, and they ought to set a wonderful example in this.
Let us all conduct ourselves honorably, and when we fall short, repent and turn to God.
Care for everyone, especially those in need.
Guard our mouths from disruptive talk that tears apart the community of believers. If we are to speak, any of us, may it be to uplift one another and glorify God.
What will glorify God today?
Choose the former, and repent of the latter.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.