Week 37, Day 3
September 14, 2022
Scripture: 1 Timothy 3
“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:14–16)
We have, what appears to be a saying or early hymn in the church. The phrase is taken up by Paul here as something to be reiterated over and over again. It affirms what we know to be true, our true godliness comes from Jesus Christ.
We conduct ourselves as the church of Jesus Christ by affirming what is true of his Lordship. It affirms both his life, death, resurrection and ascension. For us as the church, the source of our godliness is Christ Jesus. He is our hope, our salvation and deliverance.
As we consider today how we are to conduct ourselves, this is the guiding truth. Jesus reigns. He lived, he died, he lives and he reigns. It’s an oversimplification of course, but this is our guide and influences our worldview. We see ourselves in light of a new world that has broken in through Jesus Christ.
We reorient our lives around these central truths of the life of Jesus.
It ought to cause a bit of self-reflection for us to consider our ways and what matters to us. Jesus gets our worship and devotion. He gets our allegiance today.
This is the pillar of truth we center our lives upon, Jesus Christ is Lord.
Week 37, Day 2
September 13, 2022
Scripture: 1 Timothy 2
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:1–6)
It is important that we understand our place in the wider world. What is it that Christians are called towards? It is a conviction that I have slowly developed over time that I believe we are called to be priests for the benefit of others. That is to say, that we would be a people who petition God on behalf of others. We are his witnesses, spokespeople and image-bearers in the world. We offer people help and encouragement through our advocacy, prayer, encouragement and offer them kindness.
As Paul says here, we aim to live a peaceful and quite life in godliness and holiness. One of these prayers is a prayer for the leaders, for kings is that we may actually live a peaceful life.
The churches relationship to the political world has been beleaguered at best. But here is a simple, and important encouragement to be a people who live at peace in the world. One of the ways we do that is through a posture of prayer.
Our aim is for a life of peace and godliness.
Hopefully, through this faithful witness and peaceful life, it will also lead to many people coming to know Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Let us pray, care for and love our community well. Let us offer prayers and petitions on the behalf of many, that all would come to know Christ.
Then we will truly have peace!
Week 37, Day 1
September 12, 2022
Scripture: 1 Timothy 1
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:15–17)
Elsewhere in letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul says, “Here is a trustworthy saying.” They are:
“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,” (1 Timothy 3:1–2)
“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:9–10)
“Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him;” (2 Timothy 2:11)
“This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3:8)
Today, I invite us to take heart in what deserves our full acceptance and devotion. Christ Jesus did come into the world to save sinners. Paul recognized and shared his understanding of his own need for it. He personalizes this truth for himself.
It is important for us to know our place within this as well. Christ came to save sinners. He came to save you and me. His glory is on display in all who come to believe in him and trust in him for eternal life.
Take heart and remember your story today. You are forgiven and saved!
Week 36, Day 5
September 9, 2022
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 13
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:11–14)
“Strive for full restoration.”
As we wrap up this important letter, we are reminded of the important theme of new life in Jesus Christ. For Paul, we are unified in this new life and have new experiences of peace in community with one another. We are invited to strive for full restoration into this incredible life with God.
Full restoration is a united life with God and his people. If we are considerate of our lives, we would recognize that there are parts of our lives that are not fully restored. There are at least two aspects of restoration. One would be our individual relationship with God. Paul has taken time to highlight that we are called to a holy and new life in Christ. Continuing in sin keeps us from full restoration with God. We should lay down our sin and pursue Christ. Paul’s spent a good deal of his letters dealing with sin in the church and the need for repentance. The other aspect is our relationship with one another. Full restoration with God also means a full restoration with the people of God. “Live at peace with everyone.” We are challenged to be of one mind. This is a call to unity with one another.
Strive for full restoration with God and his people. How?
If you haven’t gathered with fellow believers for worship in a while, maybe that’s the first step towards full restoration. If you haven’t prayed, or spent time seeking the heart of God, perhaps this is a nice first step towards restoration. For all of us, self-examination is of chief importance when it comes to full restoration. Who do I need to forgive? Whose forgiveness do I need to seek? Who can I pray for? How can I be of like mind with fellow believers?
Examine your heart, seek restoration, peace and unity with God and your church family.
Week 36, Days 3 & 4
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 11 & 12
“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:14–15)
“Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” (2 Corinthians 12:6–7)
Ravi Zacharias, Bill Hybels, and many others, are all well known church leaders who suffered a great moral fall. Their moral failures brought harm to many people and devastated Christians across the globe who looked to their leadership. How could someone whom Christians trust and love, who do such great work for the kingdom, how could they have such a terrible moral failure and hurt so many? How did God use those people, despite their hidden sin?
This is the thought that I have shared with many Christians over the last several years after all the fallout of Christian leaders abuses of power and sexual misconduct. “Satan himself masquerades” is a good way to put it. Satan’s servants will masquerade as well. I will admit that it is judgmental for me to toss that out there. I’m not perfect either. But it is a strong caution for us to consider as we think about who we elevate and give our focus and devotion to.
Let it always be Jesus.
That’s Paul’s point. And ultimately, he tells us to look at the fruit of people’s lives. Those men I mentioned did many wonderful things, and apparently, many awful things too. Either way, Paul’s counsel is, “Their end will be what their actions deserve.”
That is a sobering assessment. And instead of a condemnatory tone against men, whom at one time I and many other admired – we ought to look inwardly. God will judge me for what my actions deserve. Am I pretending to be a follower of Jesus, masquerading around like I love Jesus, or is it a true and genuine love?
That’s important. Then we see in the second part of our reading a strange dialogue with Paul and the church in Corinth.
2 Corinthians 11 and 12 is a strange bit of writing from Paul. You get a sense that he is flustered with what has come about in the church. It appears that there is a questioning of Paul’s leadership. In a bit of insecurity, Paul shares his qualifications for apostleship. He reaffirms that he truly is an apostle, and deservedly so. He has faced great trials and difficulties and even was caught up into heaven. He saw the risen Jesus and experienced him. So yes, he’s qualified.
Yet, the point is not to boast in our accomplishments and experiences. For Paul, he is saying, “I’m sorry it’s a problem for you that I haven’t been bragging about all I’ve done. Those other leaders are proud of themselves. I am proud of Jesus.”
That’s my simple interpretation of what Paul is saying here.
Put even more simply, “If you gotta brag about someone, brag about Jesus. Not yourself!”
It’s amazing how our insecurities cause us to boast about our accomplishments. I sense that within me all the time. It feeds into the masquerading, though, doesn’t it?
Let’s remember how we are actually righteous and good, it’s all through Jesus our Lord!
Week 36, Days 1 & 2
September 5 & 6
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 9 & 10
“You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, people will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:11–15)
“Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, “Let those who boast boast in the Lord.”” (2 Corinthians 10:15–17)
God loves a cheerful giver, so give it all you got!
That’s a fun song that my wife sang to our kids when they were young. So, when I read this passage, that song pops into my head, of course.
It is true though, the Lord loves a cheerful giver. And we ought to give it all we got! In this case, it seems that Paul is advocating for the generosity of the believers so that the Gospel may continue to spread and God would be glorified.
In an age where we have seen the abuse of power and money, it is a touchy subject for us to address. We see “ministers” who petition their congregations for personal jets, so they can travel the globe as the “spirit” moves.
I use quotations around “minister” and “spirit,” because I am judging that there is a great deal of ego that goes into asking hard-working and devoted Christians to give you a personal jet. It’s neither becoming of a minister or something that the Spirit of God would do.
I have digressed, but we ought not to neglect the joy of giving because of the abuse of others. That’s my point, and I think Paul’s, to a degree. Paul is hoping that the gospel truly would advance, and their gift will go a long way in accomplishing the goal. Let’s get our own selfishness out of the way, and gear our generosity towards the glory of God.
Another side bar, aside from the ridiculous nature of some “ministers” abusing their roles. There is also a dynamic at work in the current state of giving. People want to give to a cause, and make a difference. I have a dear missionary friend who struggles with funding because what he does isn’t as appealing to the senses of Christians in America as other missions. We want a cause to conquer. But his ministry is to train up preachers, plant churches and oversee a Christian camp. Do they feed the hungry? I’m sure. Do they provide fresh water and education? I am sure they do that as well. But their focal point is advancing the good news about Jesus.
Paul’s missionary focus is the advancement of the Gospel. We ought to remember that as we give to churches and missions around the world. Is it good to care for the poor, help the hurting and suffering? Absolutely! It is also the best help to give them access to Living bread and water, the only one who will lift them out of the poverty of their life, Jesus Christ.
God loves a cheerful giver! Give it all you got!
By the way, if you would like to send me money for my ministry, follow the link below.
Kidding. Have a great day!
Week 35, Day 5
September 2, 2022
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8
“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they went beyond our expectations; having given themselves first of all to the Lord, they gave themselves by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Corinthians 8:1–7)
There is a startling thing that happened to me today as I was reading our text. How is it possible that what could be said of the Corinthian church was, “since you excel in everything - in faith, in speech, in knowledge…” Just a few days ago we were reading of a church in tumult. They were immoral, divided and filled with sin. Yet here they are now, receiving this praise? This is, I believe, evidence of the powerful work of Christ’s Spirit in the church. We tend to dwell on where people are now, and forget that God is doing something incredible in their lives. He is doing a transformative work in all of us who believe.
The Corinthians must have responded to the message of Paul. They are now excelling in all manners of their faith.
The next step is for them to make like the Macedonian church, that was incredibly generous in the midst of great trial. Paul now challenges them to excel in the grace of giving as well. They are invited to keep make the progression towards Christ-likeness.
Generosity is often the most difficult area in our lives to excel at as well. Especially when there are great trials. But the Macedonians are generous, and Paul invites them to this as well.
As we seek to personalize this, I have a few questions. How am I progressing towards excellence of faith? Here are some questions to lead us towards that: What areas might Paul compliment you and your faith? Do you excel in faith? How have you grown in your trust and devotion to God? In speech, what does the overflow of your heart say about its condition? Do you seek the Lord and knowing his will and way?
I could go on, but each of these invites us forward, in our next steps with God. Perhaps we need 1 Corinthians and eradicate sin, starting there. Or maybe it is bridging the divide in the congregation that might bring harm and effect our witness. There are big areas to address, but there are also these important things that we ought to be excelling at as well.
Grow in the grace of giving. Giving love, sharing our resources benevolently for the good of the church and others, caring for those in need. Give grace abundantly. Giving financially for the progression of the Gospel.
That’s the mark of the Macedonians. It’s what Paul hopes to have become of the Corinthians, and you and me too.
Week 35, Day 4
September 1, 2022
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 7
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)
What is worldly sorrow? I suppose that it has something to do with the worldly regrets we hold where we fall short of attaining all the pleasure, accomplishments, and accolades that we often derive our meaning and purpose from. We regret not achieving our dreams.
Yet Paul’s words hear strike deep. Worldly sorrow, is much worse than unachieved goals, it leads to death.
But Godly sorrow, which is the sense in which we are aware of our desperate need for God and ways we have sinned and fallen short, well that leaves us with no regrets! Our sorrow over sin leads to life.
Consider Paul’s call: “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
Do we regret sin that turns us away from God? We must purify our hearts.
What regrets do you have?
Is it over not accomplishing your dreams? Or is your regret over the sinful decisions you’ve made that led you away from the ways of God? One opposes repentance and another leads us to repentance that turns us towards God.
Turn and believe today!
Week 35, Day 3
August 31, 2022
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6
“We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:3–10)
Our new life in Christ empowers us to face incredible trials and difficulties.
That’s Paul’s message to the Corinthian church, and it echoes to us. Despite the beatings, imprisonments, the sleepless nights, the great trials that we may face as Christians, there is hope. There is comfort and strength that guides us forward knowing that God is greater than all of it. Through the power and love of God, we may face death with courage. Through the power of God, we can face evil and difficulty knowing that God is with us.
We do not hear what we think we want to hear. That is, that a new life will be easier and filled with riches. Rather, Paul teaches us that despite that good and bad, the ups and downs, no matter the circumstances, salvation is now. The circumstances won’t get easier, necessarily, but the strength and deliverance has come. You know how your story ends when Christ is writing it. He will draw you to Himself.
We are delivered from sin and death. The old is gone. Paul seems intent on helping us see that the new life in Christ is a present reality in the midst of this life. We live with our eyes on Christ now. The coming reality is breaking into our present reality.
This worldview is what has been commonly referred to as “Now, but not yet.” We have the new life in Christ and his Kingdom now, but it is not yet fully here. That tension with the world, with suffering and evil, well it isn’t easy. But Paul’s words give us the courage here to look at the world during the good, the bad, and the beautiful and the ugly and see that Christ is with us, his power carries us, and his presence comforts us.
Live to the new life now. It is here.
Is Christ writing your story? If so, you know how it ends. Life with Him.
Week 35, Day 2
August 30, 2022
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20–21)
We are a new creation in Christ. The old is gone and the new has come!
This invitation and high calling are what we embrace as Christians. I can remember when I read this passage in high school and it dawned on me that I had new life in Jesus. The overwhelming peace that comes from knowing that you have new life and are created for an incredible purpose is the greatest feeling in the world.
We are redeemed. We are saved for a purpose. Paul tells the Corinthian church that they are ambassadors for Jesus Christ. That title is embraced by all Christians still today.
We ought to consider this role of ours incredibly important as we navigate life as a Christian. We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ. As an ambassador of the Kingdom of God we represent his purposes in the world. We seek His will and express it in the world.
We often want God to adjust to our plans. We invite God to be our ambassador, to advance our purposes and will. In our self-focused idealism, we are jarred away from that as we realize that we are made righteous and reconciled to God. We are his. The old life, the old ways are gone.
It’s a life-long adjustment to this new life. It is incredibly important for us as Christians to embrace a reconciled life with God and share it with others. So we seek the heart of God as we share it with others.
You are God’s letter, written for the world to know of his love.
Will you embrace this wonderful call on your life to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ?
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.