I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Paul is the man! In the books of Timothy, Paul is writing letters from prison to a young pastor. The letters are basically advice on how Timothy should lead the church. They have guidelines for how to treat church members, qualifications for church officials, and some really awesome advice for a young man just starting out in his ministry. Both books are really amazing, but the latter parts of 2 Timothy are the ones that stick out in my mind the most. You can feel the urgency in Paul’s letters, like he knows his end is near and he is desperately trying to reach Timothy. In chapter 3 of 2 Timothy, Paul warns Timothy of the times to come. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” After reading this and looking around at the world we live in today, it’s not hard to feel like we are living in those last days that Paul mentioned. I just started working as a youth leader, and I can’t help but to feel like Paul is talking to me in these books. All the advice he is giving can and must still be applied today. I’m pretty sure 2 Timothy was the last book that Paul wrote before he was beheaded, and in the last chapter you can really feel his urgency. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 NKJV, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” I’m just getting started in my ministry, but I hope to stay as true and as on fire for God as Paul did. I hope to one day be able to say the exact same words that Paul did in verse 7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
I often post verses from the NKJV but I also have an “Every Man’s Bible” that is NLT. I like the NLT because it’s easy to read and has a lot of extra “stuff” in it, like timelines, quotes, and it often gives a brief history of important people in the bible. I carry both versions around with me and when I do my bible studies, I try to read both so I can get a good understanding of what I’m reading.
While doing my bible study this morning I came to a verse in Galatians that just seemed to have more of an impact in the NLT than it did in the NKJV. Galatians 5:19-21 NLT, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” It says that when you follow the desires of your sinful nature, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. We were all born with sin in our hearts. We all have that desire whether we want to admit it or not. Having the desire is not wrong, we are only human, but when we choose to act on those desires is when we mess up. I like this verse because to me, it says there is more to salvation than just reciting a verse, we have to live a certain way.
One thing that kept me from coming to church throughout the years was seeing someone act one way at church then another every other day. Now that I’m trying to live a certain way, I see how hard it can be to stick to the straight and narrow road. Temptation is everywhere today. It’s easy to give in to that desire to sin and have a drink or watch something you know you shouldn’t be. Thankfully, we have a merciful God. This verse doesn’t say that if you mess up, you go to the pit, it says if you live that lifestyle. We all mess up, we all stumble, it’s human nature. God didn’t create us with the intentions of being perfect.
Galatians 5:22-23 NLT, “But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Once we allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, we will experience the everlasting joy that only Jesus Christ can give. His eternal love and joy far outweighs the temporary satisfaction we get from sin.
I grew up hearing about how God “spoke” to people. I would hear someone say something like, “I just felt the Lord speaking to my heart.” I never understood what that meant until recently. I always thought to myself, “You felt Him speak to you? How do you feel speech?” I just couldn’t understand what they were talking about, until now. For me the first time I truly felt the Lord was at a service up in Table Rock, SC. It was an outside service in the mountains, it was beautiful. I just felt something telling me to go to the alter call, so instead of ignoring that “feeling” I got up, went to the front, and prayed. I prayed harder that day in just a few short minutes than I have ever before, but I still hadn’t accepted Christ as my savior. A short while later I had finally agreed to start going to church with my wife. In a service that I wasn’t even paying attention to, is the second time I felt the Lord speaking to me, telling me it was time. That night I gave my life to God. Since then I honestly feel like I can hear God speaking to me all the time. After I got saved, I started praying. I started praying that God would reveal Himself to me. I prayed that I would know God’s will for my life. I prayed that God would tell me what to do with self. I prayed that same prayer this morning before I got out of bed. And when I got up I started reading my bible. I did my normal bible study while my son ate breakfast and watched morning cartoons, then I started flipping around my bible. I came to a verse that I had already highlighted a while back and it stopped me in my tracks. Acts 26:16 NKJV, “But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will reveal to you.” What most of you probably don’t know is that I have been trying to figure out what my next step is in life. Should I go back to school or should I just start looking for some kind of a job. I’ve been praying that God would lead me somewhere, that he would open some kind of a door for me. Ask and you shall receive, right? Well, this morning I feel like He revealed to me not just my purpose but what my goal in life should be also. Acts 26:18 NKJV, “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” I’m still looking for a job or more preferably, a career, but God showed me what my purpose was this morning.
I was lucky enough to get to grow up with brothers and sisters. One thing I can say about having siblings, we don’t always agree with each other. Whether you are brothers in Christ, brothers in arms, or just brothers, if you spend enough time together you will probably get into it at one point or another. In Galatians 2, Paul and Peter bump heads over how Peter is acting towards the Gentiles. I had to read this chapter a couple times to really get the gist of what’s going on. Basically Paul confronts Peter because he would sit and eat with the Gentiles until certain people were around, but when those certain people came around he would withdraw and separate himself from them. It even got the point where others were starting to follow what he was doing. Galatians 2:13 NKJV, “And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.” So Paul, being the awesome guy he is, calls Peter out. “But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?” Galatians 2:14 NKJV. Peter got caught up in what others thought of him. His reputation started to matter more than the word of God. We, as Christians, don’t have the luxury of “what others think”. The bible doesn’t say to spread the Good News only to certain people of high standing in society, we have to spread the word of God to everyone, regardless of their reputation. Jesus Christ didn’t care one bit about peoples reputation, or His own for that matter. He ate with tax collectors, prostitutes, liars, and thieves. In Mark 2:17 Jesus says, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Jesus cared for the hopeless sinners of the world, and so should we. The drunks, drug addicts, prostitutes, cheats, liars, and thieves should be our target audience, not “the righteous”. We have to stop taking the easy road. Jesus sure didn’t. We Christians have to start getting our hands dirty, we have to really get out there and start spreading the word. Paul called Peter out because he was starting to drift away from his true purpose and cared more for himself than doing God’s will. I hope and pray that if I ever started to drift, someone would have the guts to call me out just like Paul did. Once we give our lives to God we have a purpose, a duty, to do God’s will. Salvation is only the first step. This life is not our own, Jesus paid the ultimate price for us. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NKJV. Being a “Christian” means we have to strive to be “Christ-like”, we have to try our best to put our own desires to the side and see the world how He did. It’s not always easy, I struggle with it all the time. We have all seen the “WWJD” bracelets but how many of us actually live by that? Lately I have been trying to imagine what Jesus would do in certain situations. How would He act? What would He say? To me, one of the most important things we as Christians can do to help spread the gospel isn’t actually spreading the gospel, it’s living it. Others will see the change God has made in our lives without us even having to tell them. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t tell people about the grace of God, all I’m trying to say is actions speak louder than words. Just like in Galatians 2, Peters actions were contagious. Because he was acting a certain way, others started to follow his example. Jesus is the only example we should be trying to follow. As you go about your daily routines, at home, at work, or where ever you happen to be, I hope you keep that little bracelet in the back of your head. WWJD. Well, what WOULD Jesus do?
I always thought that John the Baptist was awesome. Mark 1:6 NKJV says, “Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.” That’s awesome. I always picture him as a Phil Robertson kinda guy. But the more I read about Paul, the more I’m really starting to like this guy. He started out persecuting Christians and trying to destroy God’s church, and ended up writing a good bit of the New Testament. I just started the book of Galatians and Paul is writing a letter to the churches of Galatia. In the first chapter he basically calls them out for their lack of faith. Galatians 1:6 NKJV, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel,” Now I’m still pretty new in my walk with God, but I hope and pray that I stay on fire for Him like I am right now till the day I get called home. I know exactly what Paul is talking about here though. Sadly you see this all the time in the church, someone will give their life to God, be on fire for a while, and then slowly that fire will start to die down. After a while, that person stops coming to church and is right back where they were before, lost. Living a Godly life is not easy. And sadly, we Christians are one of the big reasons for that. Church is the one place where you should be able to feel truly safe. A place where you can let your guard down, and really put it all out there. Galatians 6:1-2 NKJV, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” If you were struggling with something, do you feel like you could approach someone at church an spill the beans? You should. What if it was something like pornography addiction? Would you be able to tell someone without fear of judgment or embarrassment? The bible clearly states that we should bear one another’s burdens, we have to be able to rely on each other for spiritual support. I leave you today with one final verse in hopes of encouraging you to stay on the straight and narrow path, fighting the good fight. Galatians 6:9-10 NKJV, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
After high school I spent four years in the Marine Corps. I was seventeen years old when I signed the papers and had to get my mom to sign with me so I could join. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into at the time, but I had seen Full Metal Jacket about a million times. I thought I was gonna go to boot camp and then be sent to war. I ended up in aviation supply, pretty much the furthest you can get from war besides maybe working at the chow hall. I joined thinking I was gonna get geared up an see some combat, I ended up stationed in California and learning to surf, not a bad deal in my opinion. It has been over six years since I was in the Marines but I still get all fired up seeing war movies or crazy clips on youtube. I think that’s why I get so pumped when I read passages in the bible like Psalm 144 or like the one I just read in Ephesians. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints-” Ephesians 6:13-18 NKJV. I love this stuff! Paul wrote this while he was imprisoned in Rome, you know that dude was a warrior! This passage is talking about battle, spiritual warfare. When you see footage of troops overseas in a warzone they aren’t wearing shorts and a t-shirt, they are prepared. They have on armor. We as Christians have to prepare for battle also, but our armor isn’t sappy plates and Kevlar, it’s Gods word. It’s truth, it’s righteousness, and above all else it’s faith.
Growing up I have always been a huge sci-fi nerd. Comics, video games, movies, even action figures. That kind of stuff was just cool to me. With today being Halloween I can’t help but to think about all the years I dressed up as my favorite superhero. I would dress up and pretend that I had superpowers just like my favorite hero. You can imagine how excited I was to learn that God actually grants us spiritual gifts. Now, granted you won’t shoot lasers out of your eyes or fly but the bible clearly states that we all have gifts from God. Chapter 12 in the first book of Corinthians is a great example of God’s gifts for us. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 NKJV, “for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the workings of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” Gifts of healing, working miracles, that’s pretty awesome stuff if you ask me. These “superpowers” are God’s gifts for the faithful to use for the greater good. Now, this doesn’t mean that once you get saved you will be able to heal like Wolverine, or instantly know every language on the planet, your gift may be the fact that you can reach out to someone no one else has been able to reach. Your gift may be the ability to provide a home for someone, or to donate to someone in need.