I Know Him and am Convinced

Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 10-11, Hosea 2, Psalm 119:97-120, 2 Timothy 1.

“. . . which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” 2 Timothy 1:12

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Evidence that you truly believe in the reality of Jesus and the certainty of your future with Him will be seen in how you live your life now.

Evidence that you still doubt the reality of Jesus and your future with Him will be seen in how you live your life now.

Paul makes this abundantly clear in this verse. He suffers and is unashamed because He knows Jesus personally and is absolutely certain of his future with Him. His life is one that reveals he is not living for the here and now. Paul is willing to suffer and go without because he knows Jesus is real and he knows the end with Him will be better than life.

Which makes me wonder. . .

Do I know whom I believe in? Sure, I believe Him. I believe in Him. But do I know Him?

Am I convinced of how it will go with me in the end? I believe in heaven. I believe in a future with Jesus. But am I convinced of it?

There is a big difference between having “a belief” in someone or something and being absolutely convinced and certain of its reality.

I wonder if I still spend money the way I do and refuse to share the Gospel at times and watch so much football and pray because “I’m supposed to” and avoid hard, but truth-telling conversations and run from suffering because I don’t know whom I believe in and I am not convinced yet of my future with Him? Is there still a part of me that doubts?

Paul said he lived the way he did because he KNEW and was CONVINCED.

Do I live the way I do because I KNOW ABOUT and still WONDER?

If I knew Him like Paul did and was convinced of “the Day” like he was – would my life not smell more like Paul’s?

Paul knew Him and was convinced about the future with Him – and that changed everything.

God, I believe – help my unbelief.

 

Okay God, You’re the One Responsible for This!

Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 9, Hosea 1, Psalm 119:73-96, 1 Timothy 6.

“Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.” Psalm 119:73

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The flow and logic of this verse is freeing.

The first statement acknowledges the truth of Who put him together: “Your hands have made and fashioned me.”

The second statement is a prayer based on the truth of the first statement: “Give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.”

The prayer makes sense without the first statement. But the prayer makes much MORE sense due to the truth of the first statement.

Let me add a word that is implied here to explain what I mean: “Your hands have made and fashioned me; (therefore) give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.”

You see?

Because God made and fashioned this man, God knows how he works.

Because God put this guy together, God knows how he is wired.

Because God arranged his brain cells and capacity, God knows how he can comprehend stuff.

It’s as if the psalmist is saying, “Okay God, you know how I am wired. You know how bizarre my mind works. You know what things come easy to me and what things are hard. You made me. You put me together. You arranged everything about me. So please help me understand Your Word in a way that I can ‘get it’ and obey You.”

Or, to put it yet another – more down to earth – way: “Alright Lord, You’re responsible for this. Help me understand You according to the way You put me together.”

Isn’t that liberating?

This plea is an honest prayer to God for help. It is a cry to the One who made us to give us understanding, specifically for us – individually. Not only does God love us individually, but He can give us individual understanding of His ways because He knows what it will take to help us “get it.”

I love this prayer!

Pray it for yourself, for your family, for your friends, and for others: “Lord, You made me and know this crazy brain of mine. You formed it. You know what it will take for me to comprehend. So grant me understanding in a way I can ‘get it’ and learn Your ways.”

What are the Chances?

Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 8, Daniel 12, Psalm 119:49-72, 1 Timothy 5.

“4 Now the king was talking with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, ‘Tell me all the great things that Elisha has done.’ And while he was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her land. And Gehazi said, ‘My lord, O king, here is the woman, and here is her son whom Elisha restored to life.’ And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed an official for her, saying, ‘Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.'” 1 Kings 8:4-6

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What are the chances Elisha would run into a widow woman, just as she was running out of flour and oil?

What are the chances Elisha’s body could restore life to this same woman’s dead son?

What are the chances this woman would be told to leave for 7 years for a famine?

What are the chances that, at the end of a 7 year famine, Elisha’s servant and the king “just so happened” to be talking about this woman?

What are the chances that, as Elisha’s servant and the king are talking about this woman, she approaches the king for her land?

What are the chances of the king restoring to her all that was originally hers?

Think about it: What are the chances of a woman who had been gone for 7 years – a widow woman no less whose name is unknown – was being talked about to the king at the precise moment she came to him for land? What are the chances the king and Elisha’s servant are even talking at that moment? What are the chances that the king would ask about Elisha’s works at that very moment? That’s insane! The woman had been gone for 7 years! That’s 84 months. That’s 364 weeks. That’s 2,555 days. That’s 61,320 days. That’s . . . a long time. And it “just so happened” that the at the very moment the king was hearing about this woman from Elisha’s servant, she walked up.

What are the chances? With God – 100%.

I am not sure who first coined this phrase, but it’s a good one. With God, the chances of things like this happening are 100 percent.

Think about this: What are the chances you are where you are right now, living where you are living, doing what you are doing?

Anything that happens to you today – anything – is a 100 percent chance because there is no real “chance” with God. He is directing and orchestrating and working and organizing everything – everything – to work for His glory and your joy.

The “good” that happens to you today is designed by God. The widow woman got all that was hers by the king.

The “bad” that happens to you today is arranged and/or allowed by God. The widow woman had to move to Philistine country for 7 years.

The point? God is at work all around you, in every detail, arranging things for a reason and a purpose. He wants you to see and find and enjoy Him in it. He wants you to know Him and His ways in all of life’s events. What happens to you today isn’t just “by chance.” It is “by God” – because He loves you. . . big time.

“The earth, O LORD, is full of Your steadfast love. . .” Psalm 119:64

Don’t Do It MY Way

Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 5, Daniel 9, Psalm 117-118, 1 Timothy 2.

“10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.’ 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage.” 2 Kings 5:10-12

Is it just me, or do you want to punch Naaman in the face? I mean, think about it: This guy is a leper and has been told by a prophet of God – Elisha, no less – how to be healed. Instead of listening to Elisha’s “prescription,” Naaman gets mad because Elisha doesn’t “do it” the way he wants him to. What an idiot. What kind of fool would refuse God’s means of . . .

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Before I punch Naaman in the face and call him names, maybe I need to punch myself.

Yes, Naaman looks like a fool here. The way to be healed and to thrive is made crystal clear. Even his servants get it and are who finally talks Naaman into washing in the Jordan (see verses 13-14). But are we not guilty of doing the exact same thing?

No, not with leprosy per se.

But with spiritual thriving?

We have all we need to know to have a healthy marriage in Ephesians 5:22-33. But we want to do it our way.

We have all we need to know to raise kids who know and love God in Deuteronomy 6, Proverbs, Ephesians 6:1-4, etc. But we want to do it our way.

We know exactly how to be right with God and to be seen by Him as His child – forever. But we want to do it our way.

We know what the Bible says about money. But we want to do it our way.

We know what God says about evangelism and discipleship. But we want to do it our way.

God has told us clearly how to prosper and thrive and live the “blessed life” (see Psalm 1 for instance). But we want to do it our way.

Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe you want God to heal you like He did Naaman, but medicine has been invented for your sickness and you refuse to take it? Maybe you want to wake up and it just “miraculously” all go away so that “God will get the glory;” yet, you refuse to take responsibility for your actions and take the way God has laid out for you?

Just like God – through Elisha – gave Naaman a clear directive to be healed, so to He has made His will and purposes for us unbelievably clear. But, like Naaman, we want to do it our way.

Let’s learn from the servants here and apply what they said to ourselves. I just have to wonder they were like, “Naaman – you pea brain barbarian! If you weren’t a leper I would kick you in the chin! Go and wash for crying out loud!” I am not sure. But they had the most sense.

God has told us how we can thrive. Let’s quit refusing what He has said, go wash in the Jordan, and be healed.

Handed Over to Satan???

Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 4, Daniel 8, Psalm 116, 1 Timothy 1.

“Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” 1 Timothy 1:20

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“Good morning and welcome to the First Baptist Church of Ephesus. I hope you were greeted with a warm welcome on your way in and are able to hear from the Lord throughout our worship service. Things will look a bit different this morning. Fred and Bob will be taking up our offering later in the service today. Himme and Alex, our usual collectors, have been handed over to Satan until further notice. . . Let’s pray together.”

For real?

For real.

Paul told Timothy (the pastor in Ephesus) that he handed two guys over to Satan. What in the world does that mean and why would Paul do such a thing?

More than likely, it means Paul “kicked” these guys out of the church. They were excommunicated from the fellowship. They were told they could not be “members in good standing.” They were informed they could not be a part of the church until some things changed in their hearts and lives.

Apparently, Hymenaeus and Alexander were guilty of teaching things contrary to biblical truth. We cannot be certain what they were teaching, but in Paul’s mind it was blasphemy. What they were communicating about God was false and/or wrong. Assuming Paul confronted them with no success, they were handed over to Satan’s domain: the world.

This ought to have our attention for three reasons, at least:

#1. Doctrine Matters.

What one believes effects how one behaves. What one thinks about God is the single most important thing about a person. Period. Right understanding of God = Living the way God intended. Wrong understanding of God = Wrong living. What we believe determines how we behave.

How serious do you take the biblical doctrine you receive? 

#2. Membership Matters.

Not just anybody can be a member of an evangelical, Protestant church. There is an entrance requirement (salvation and baptism) and there are particular membership “do’s.” There are things and behaviors and actions church members MUST actively do and things they must refrain from. Obviously, teaching biblical doctrine is one of those things.

How serious do you take your church membership? 

#3. Repentance Matters.

Paul didn’t hand these guys over to Satan in hopes they would go to hell. No, no. He handed them over in order to restore them: “that they may learn not to blaspheme.” One on one confrontations had not worked. Warnings had not done the trick. Paul had tried to get them to repent and teach right doctrine. Nothing worked. So they were removed from the church in the hopes they would repent and be restored to the fellowship soon.

Anything you need to repent from today? Anyone around you needing to be lovingly confronted with truth today? 

I’m not sure what happened to ole Himme and Alex. We don’t know if they repented from their blasphemous ways or went to a liberal church down the street. But I have a pretty good feeling I know what happened that Sunday morning in Ephesus after the welcome time. Everyone in the room knew that church was not a joke and that a right understanding of God is critical.

I wonder what would happen in our churches if we practiced this “hand over to Satan” deal? Thoughts?

How Can the Bible “Speed” and be “Honored”?

Today’s Reading: 2 Kings 3, Daniel 7, Psalm 114-115, 2 Thessalonians 3.

“Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1

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How does something like the word of the Lord actually “speed ahead”?

What does it mean for God’s Word to be “honored”?

Can the Bible actually “run”? Isn’t the Word an “honorable” book already? Does it really need to “be honored”?

What does Paul mean when he asks the Thessalonians to pray that as he goes, the word of the Lord “speed ahead” and “be honored”? What does that look like? How can one know if it has actually happened?

We get a strong hint at the very end of the verse. Paul says, “as happened among you.” In other words, he asks that what happened among them when they heard the Word would happen among other people.

So, what happened to them?

Paul sheds some light on this for us in 1 Thessalonians 1: “For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10

Notice how Paul describes what happened when they heard the Word/Gospel. This is how, I believe, God’s Word “speeds ahead” and is “honored”:

a. The Gospel came in power and in the Holy Spirit.

b. The Thessalonians were convicted of sin when they heard it.

c. They immediately imitated Paul and his other Christian companions.

d. The Word was received in the midst of affliction.

e. The Word was received with joy – in the midst of this affliction.

f. The Thessalonians turned from idols to serve the living and true God.

g. They eagerly awaited Jesus’ return from heaven.

Let me sum it up in these words: The Word of the Lord caused radical transformation among the Thessalonians.

I believe when Paul asks for prayer that the Gospel “speed ahead” and “be honored” when he proclaims it he means that when the Word is presented, it would cause radical transformation in the lives of those who hear it. It “speeds ahead” when hearers respond to it and immediately make it known in word and deed. It is “honored” when it is heard as it really is – the Word of the Lord – and treated as such.

What happens to you when you hear the Word of the Lord? Does it “speed ahead” because of you? Is it “honored”?

What happens on Sunday morning at your church when the Word of the Lord is preached?

When was the last time you asked for prayer that the Word of the Lord “speed ahead” and “be honored” as you proclaim the Gospel to the lost?

When was the last time you prayed it for your pastor on Sunday morning?

The Word of the Lord is living and active. It has capacity to “speed ahead” and “be honored” in hearts and lives.

Let’s live expectantly, longing for the Spirit of God to do – through the proclamation of His Word – what He did in the hearts and lives of the Thessalonians.

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