Bible In 90 Days 57: PHILEMON

Today is day 88 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

1 chapter? That’s it? It’s short and sweet but the tiny of letter to Philemon packs a punch!

Philemon is a pastor who has a church meeting in his house most likely. Years ago, he owned a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus (which means “profitable”) didn’t know Jesus and became very unprofitable to Philemon. We don’t know the extent of what he did but it appears as though he may have stolen some things, and we know he ran away.

No matter where or how far we run, God knows right where we are and He has His ways of arranging circumstances as He pursues us. It’s no coincidence that Onesimus ends up in prison right next to Paul the Apostle, who of course leads him to Christ (because that’s what Paul does)! Suddenly, faced with his sin in the past and a new life in Christ, Paul urges Onesimus to return home to Philemon to make things right.

That is one of the beauties of the Gospel. We were once running from our past in shame and guilt. Then Jesus stepped in and everything changed. The power of Christ working in our lives and making everything new enables us to face with confidence who we were and understand that that’s not who we are.

The most powerful verse in this short letter is definitely verse 18…

“If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” – Philemon 18

It’s a beautiful picture of the gospel – Jesus reconciles and pays for the damage that was done when we were slaves ourselves, running from Him, unprofitable to ourselves, others, and to the Lord Himself.

In the end, Mr. Profitable became profitable to Paul, but soon to Philemon! It’s amazing how the Gospel can turn lives around and make them worth something!

Bible In 90 Days 56: TITUS

Today is day 88 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

The book of Titus joins the ranks of 1 Timothy & 2 Timothy as a “pastoral epistle.” This one is written to Titus, the pastor of the church in Crete, planted by Paul the Apostle. Paul writes this letter to instruct Titus in what to do since Paul had left. He gives basic guidelines on how to run the church, how to choose elders within the church, and more. It’s another very valuable book for church leaders and pastors.

A few things stand out to me in this short letter…

1) The need for rebuke.

Paul is not scared to say it how it is. He’s not what you would call “seeker-friendly” or “politically correct.”

“One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,” – Titus 1:12-13

“As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” – Titus 3:10-11

“Rebuke them sharply.” Ouch. That doesn’t sound fun.

As comfortable as Paul seems to be with it, I can speak from experience when I say that it’s never fun. As a pastor, my job is not only to equip the saints and preach the word, but also to protect the sheep from wolves and and rebuke those who need to be rebuked. Of course the goal is always correction and restoration so as not to cause further division.

2) The role of the ladies

In 1 Timothy, Paul was clear what women are not called to within the church, but in Titus, he gives some clarification on what they are called to. The highlights are being well-behaved, training up the younger women, and loving their families and husbands. You can read the full list in Titus 2:3-5.

3) The need for solid, Biblical preaching.

Paul harped on this point over and over in 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy, but in Titus, he goes for it again…

“But as for you, teach what accords with found doctrine.” – Titus 2:1

The need for solid, Biblical teaching can’t be addressed enough. It’s overlooked and under appreciated in today’s culture. God’s word has been given to us to keep us on track, and the more we listen to it and put it into action in our lives, the better off we’ll be.

Bible In 90 Days 55: 2 TIMOTHY

Today is day 87 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

2 Timothy is not only Paul’s final “prison epistle,” but it is also valuable because it contains the last words of Paul to his “son” in the faith, Timothy. His advice is pure gold: endure persecution and affliction, preach the word, don’t tolerate false doctrine, run hard after your calling, etc. – HUGE, important topics, especially for a young preacher. 2 Timothy joins 1 Timothy and Titus in a grouping of books known as the “pastoral epistles.”

Chapter 1 seems to address an issue with confidence that Timothy must have been having – Paul tells him to stand his ground and take whatever comes his way.

Timothy was the pastor of the church in Ephesus, which was very idolatrous and hostile to the Gospel. It was not an easy task that he had! In addition to that hostility, Timothy was young. It would have been easy for older, “more experienced” men to step in and abuse Timothy. That’s a lesson I’ve had to learn as a young pastor. I got hired as a youth pastor when I was 20, so  at times I encountered older men and women who had a hard time receiving spiritual counsel from me. Regardless, like Paul told Timothy earlier, I try to set an example in faith, love, and purity.

One thing that Paul was big on was discipleship. He discipled Timothy, Silas, Barnabas, and many more, but it didn’t stop there. He encouraged them to continue the discipleship process. After all, Jesus did tell us to make disciples.

“and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” – 2 Timothy 2:2

Just as he did in his first letter to Timothy, Paul reminds him that one of his main tasks is to preach the word. He challenges him to be a man of God “rightly handling the word of truth” and to “avoid irreverent babble.”

We would all do good to stop arguing over stupid things. I love Paul’s honesty about arguing: it “ruins the hearers” (2:14), it leads “people into more and more ungodliness” (2:16), and it “will spread like gangrene” (2:17). To that, I give a hearty, “AMEN!” I get so tired of people who just want to debate and argue instead of live like a Christian and put their faith into action. Tell people about Jesus and make disciples – let’s make that our focus, not theological debates that end up dividing the church.

As Paul closes the book (as well as his career as a Biblical author), some of his most powerful words stand out…

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of Godt may be competent, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:5

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up 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 loved his appearing.” – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” – 2 Timothy 4:18

And with that, Paul signs off. What a man of faith and a legacy to follow!

Bible In 90 Days 54: 1 TIMOTHY

Today is day 87 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

Whenever you start a new job, your employer may hand you the “employee manual.” You know what I’m talking about – it’s been photocopied 17 times and is laced with spelling errors and BBQ sauce stains. Although it’s a very dry read, it contains the information, policies, and expectations you need to be aware of so that you can perform your job correctly.

Minus the dryness, spelling errors, stains, and over all boring-ness, 1 Timothy is the first of Paul’s letters that functions as a pastor’s employee manual. It contains the information, policies, and expectations you need to be aware of so that you can perform your job as pastor or ministry worker correctly. And know this: God has high standards!

1 Timothy introduces us to a portion of Paul’s letters known as “the pastoral epistles.” 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus function as the instruction manual/training guide for pastors and church leadership. Their main subject is how to appropriately and Biblically lead the church. Of course they’re written by one of the greatest pastors and church planters who ever lived, Paul the Apostle!

1 Timothy addresses many different aspects of the ministry including prayer, taking care of widows within the church, preaching, the character traits of church leaders and pastors, and much more. It’s a very valuable book to all, but especially those within church leadership.

1 Timothy was written to Timothy, a young pastor in Ephesus – Paul’s protege. To highlight the severity and importance of his words, Paul says this…

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith” – 1 Timothy 1:18-19

Speaking as a pastor, I would ask you to pray for your pastor. The work of the ministry is not for the faint-hearted. Being a Christian is challenging, and being a pastor has its own set of challenges and trials. Seeing and being involved in the lives of so many hurting people can be burdensome, painful, and a big load to carry. As pastors, we have to learn to give that burden over to Jesus, the chief Shepherd. Our shoulders weren’t built to carry the weight of the ministry. However, He does expect a lot out of us. We’re on the front lines “waging the good warfare.”

If you want to be a pastor or you’d like to know what’s expected of a pastor, make sure to read Paul’s list of requirements in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

Other ministry leaders within the church are held to a high standard as well – read 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

Prayer is a major priority for Paul (as it should be for us). He told Timothy…

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” – 1 Timothy 2:1

Paul also makes it clear that women are not eligible for the pastoral role. Before I get a bunch of hate e-mail about that, let me clarify something: that doesn’t mean they’re less important, inferior, or unusable by God. Women have a very powerful and useful role in leading other women within the church. The issue is that a woman being the spiritual leader over a man flies against the order that God has set up within Scripture.

Another one of the pastor’s main jobs is to preach the word. If you know me, you know this is a passion of mine. And I’m not talking about cute little sermonettes either. I’m talking about plunging the depths of the word of God and treating it as though it really is alive and active (as it says it is). 1 Timothy 4 reflects Paul’s heart toward preaching and desire to make sure that God’s people don’t follow after worthless doctrine and lying words. A pastor’s job is to (spiritually) feed his flock faithfully and heartily. After all…

“…by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” – 1 Timothy 4:16

Paul also makes it a point to mention to Timothy that a pastor should not feel guilty about making a living from ministry. Some are certainly guilty of taking it too far and becoming extremely rich by pressuring people to give more money. Paul is obviously not encouraging that. However, as he says…

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” – 1 Timothy 5:17

 

Bible In 90 Days 53: 2 THESSALONIANS

Today is day 87 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

2 Thessalonians is brief, and is of course, a follow-up to 1 Thessalonians. They’re both about the future, but this one specifically addresses a concern that the Thessalonians church had that they had missed the Rapture somehow!

I have a friend who, as a young Christian, went to church for a small group Bible study one evening. He arrived a little late, and when he walked into the room, no one was there, but all their Bibles were sitting in a circle where their owners had been! He panicked and thought that somehow he had missed the Rapture…then his friends walked in from outside!

Missing the Rapture would obviously be a big deal – much bigger than oversleeping for work or missing a dentist appointment!

Paul fills them in on reality though – he lets them know some basic chronology of what will happen in the end times so that they can be aware.

Some Christians try to stay away from end times stuff (eschatology) because it freaks them out or they just don’t know much about it. It’s important for all Christians to be aware of the events that will take place before the Rapture and return of Christ (which are two separate events, by the way). God lays them out for us in Daniel, 2 Thessalonians, Revelation, and a few other places in Scripture. Only He knows the exact timing of all the events, though, so our job is to BE READY!

And just so they knew Paul meant business, he closed this letter with these words…

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:17

Any time the Bible talks about going home to heaven, I get so excited! After all, for us who trust in Christ, it’s the moment we’ve been waiting for and an encouragement to keep going even when times are rough.

Bible in 90 Days 52: 1 THESSALONIANS

Today is day 87 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

1 Thessalonians is a very refreshing read, especially after reading 1 Corinthians a couple days ago!

1 & 2 Thessalonians were Paul’s 2nd and 3rd books written. He had visited Thesslonica on his second missionary journey, where they had seen God move so powerfully that the mob who tried to hunt them down described them this way…

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also” – Acts 17:6

What a compliment! That’s exactly what Paul had set out to do!

Speaking of compliments, Paul had a lot of great things to say about the Thessalonian church as well. They were faithful, loving, and Christ-centered in all that they did. He said that they “became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1:7). He said they also “received the word of God…and accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (2:13). He goes so far as to say…

“For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20

Although Paul addressed quite a few things in 1 Thessalonians, the church in Thessalonica was missing two main things:

1) Paul – he wasn’t able to be there in person, so he sent Timothy instead (3:2).

2) Hope after death. That’s a big one!

Paul addresses that issue in Chapter 4 when he writes about the Rapture and the life we live after death. We don’t sorrow like those who have no hope – Jesus overcame death! For the believer, death is the beginning of real life! What a comforting reminder!

On the flip side, however, the return of Christ will be a time of panic and terror for many who have rejected Christ. There is no encouragement for them besides committing their lives to Christ so that they’re guaranteed to have hope at the return of Christ.

One unique things about 1 Thessalonians is that it contains two of the three instances in Scripture where it specifically says “this is God’s will.” (The third is 1 Peter 2:15.)

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification:t that you abstain from sexual immorality” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3

“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Make it a practice to pay attention to God’s will. Not paying attention to God’s will is like not paying attention to your GPS when trying to get to a new location. You won’t arrive safely if you’re not paying attention. God’s will is the GPS for our souls, so listen up!

1 Thessalonians is a refreshing read written to a refreshing church. It gives one of the earliest looks at the New Testament church that was forming around the world. God was doing great things, and if His people would continue to follow His will and expectantly await His return, He would continue to do amazing things! The same is true for us today.

Bible In 90 Days 51: COLOSSIANS

Today is day 86 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

The book of Colossians is Paul reminding us where our lives should be centered. Jesus is the center of everything.

If we are the solar system, Jesus is the sun – we revolve around Him.

If we are a cell, Jesus is the nucleus – He keeps us moving and functioning.

If we are an earthquake, Jesus is the epicenter – He’s the point of all action.

Jesus is the center, the point of action, the place that all growth, life, and action stems from. HE. IS. IT. Everything in the book points back to Him – He’s the reason anything exists and the reason it’s still existing – He holds it all together.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For byt him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” – Colossians 1:15-17

Colossians is Paul’s third “prison epistle.” Ephesians and Philippians came first, and the final one is Philemon (more on that one tomorrow). There he was, locked in a Roman prison cell, writing some of the deepest, most practical words we would ever read. I’m sure he had no idea the impact that these simple letters would have. 2,000 years later, they’re still shaking us up! Because Jesus was at the center of everything Paul lived for, God even used his times of persecution and suffering to proclaim the name of Christ! John and the book of Revelation are another great example of that…but that’s for another blog as well.

I’ve mentioned it before, but the main reason Paul is able to write such joy- and -purpose-filled words are because of where his mind and life is centered. He reminds us very clearly where ours should be centered as well…

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” – Colossians 3:1

Can you imagine how this mindset could completely change your life?

What if you viewed your trial through the filter of “things above?”

What if you viewed all the stuff you have (house, car, money, etc) through the filter of “things above?”

What if you viewed your relationships through the filter of “things above?”

Paul had a very unique God-given perspective and outlook on life, because everything that happened and every relationship he formed was filtered through and focused on “things above.”

One  heresy that Paul hit head-on (Ch. 2) was the exaltation of human wisdom. That’s definitely something we have to combat today. Whether it’s a psychic, higher learning, “coexisting” religions, or cult beliefs, many people turn to knowledge and learning as their god. It’s a good reminder to remember Who made our brains in the first place and Who keeps them functioning today!

I’d challenge you with this: take a minute right now to pray and ask God to help you center everything you do for the rest of the day on Him. If you’ll follow through on it, it will literally change the rest of your day…and if you keep going, it will change your life!

Bible In 90 Days 50: PHILIPPIANS

Today is day 86 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

In addition to Ephesians, Philippians was also written from a Roman jail cell. Kowing that, you may expect a letter of worry, doubt, and self-pity…but that’s not how Paul rolls. Amazingly, Philippians is a letter of joy!

Paul writes to the Philippian church because they were such a huge blessing and encouragement to him. Chapter 4 says that they were the only church that contributed financially to Paul’s missionary work. But imagine if you found out the missionary you were supporting was arrested and thrown in prison and there was nothing you could do about – you might panic, right?

In his letter, Paul tells them not to worry about him – his suffering has actually turned out to be a platform for ministry! The Message says, “They didn’t shut me up, they gave me a pulpit!” – 1:20. He goes on to say that the Palace guard is becoming aware that his chains are in Christ. After all, he’s not chained to the Roman guards – they’re chained to him! They’re literally a captive audience!

Paul’s newfound prison ministry is so effective, that by the end of the letter, he says that some of the Roman soldiers, who are now Christians, send their regards to the Philippian church as well! It’s amazing how God can use some of the darkest periods of our lives for Him!

The main question that often pops into my mind when reading Philippians, is “How did Paul maintain such a great attitude even in the midst of suffering?” The answer is found in what he’s living for…

“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21

Everything in Paul’s life filtered through Christ. Since he had that focus, he was able to see things from an entirely different perspective than many people do. That includes death. You won’t bump into many people who use the phrase, “to die is gain.” If they do, they’re probably not the most joyful people. So how was Paul able to say it and mean it? Again, it goes back to what (and Who) his life was wrapped around in the first place: Christ. Had it been anything else, he couldn’t say that…

To live is MONEY, to die is to BE ETERNALLY DESTITUTE.

To live is FAME, to die is to BE FORGOTTEN.

To live is SUCCESS, to die is to FAIL FOR ETERNITY.

Everything changes depending on how you fill in that first blank. However, because Paul lived for Christ, he could rest in Him and rejoice in Him.

How would you fill in that blank?

“For to me, to live is ___________________…”

Bible In 90 Days 49: EPHESIANS

Today is day 86 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

If you were in prison, what would you write about?

You might write about how small your room was, how there was nothing good on TV, how your roommate smelled a little weird, or how much you wanted out…but not Paul.

Ephesians is the first of 4 of Paul’s letters known as “the prison epistles,” written during his first imprisonment (yes, there was more than just 1) in Rome.

The main topic of Ephesians is Christ and the church. The first few paragraphs are about salvation in Christ and how much we need Him. After all, as Paul so clearly points out…

“you were dead in trespasses and sins” – Ephesians 2:1

Last time I checked, dead people don’t do anything. We obviously needed some help. That’s where Jesus steps in…

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…” – Ephesians 2:4-5

The first few chapters focus on Christ in us, but then, once new life has been given, the focus switches to us and our life in Christ. Paul addresses many topics throughout his letter, including husbands and wives, raising children, spiritual battles, loving one another, and much more. It’s a deep, rich book filled with exhortations, reminders, and huge spiritual truths.

Ephesians is one of the main books I turn to in pre-marital and marital counseling. It paints a very clear picture of the roles of husbands and wives…

HUSBANDS:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” – Ephesians 5:25

Men, when it comes to loving your wife, Christ sets the bar extremely high. We are called to cherish them, love them, and sacrifice for them. It’s a calling that we can only fulfill if Christ is first in our lives. We need to be closely following Him so that we can accurately lead our families and wives.

WIVES:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:22

Women, your role isn’t easy either. Your husband is called to play the role of Christ in the marriage (let me guess – he doesn’t always do it accurately?), so you are playing the role of the church. You are to love and submit to your husband, allowing him to take the lead. It’s a very high calling and one you should not take lightly.

Quick marriage tip: Your spouse will find their role easier to fulfill if you are first doing your part.

Husbands, your wife will find it much easier to love you and submit to your Godly leadership if you are cherishing her, prioritizing her above yourself, and most of all, following Jesus.

Wives, your husband will find it much easier to love you and lead you as he’s called to do if you are first loving Jesus and submitting to your husband. I know it’s not easy and we men don’t always deserve your honor, but the Bible doesn’t give a way out.

Chapter 6 goes on to speak of parenting, relationships in the workplace (slave & servant), as well as the spiritual battle that we’re all in the middle of. Remember that in whatever battle you find yourself in, the enemy is not another person – it goes much deeper than that…

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

Bible In 90 Days 48: GALATIANS

Today is day 86 in our journey through the Bible in 90 days.

It would be a major understatement to say that Martin Luther really enjoyed the book of Galatians. He said this:

“It is my epistle; I have betrothed myself to it: it is my wife.”

I love the book too, but I wouldn’t take it quite that far!

Galatians was Paul’s very first letter, and if I could sum up Galatians in one word, it would be “Grace.”

Galatians was written because of an enemy (or a group of them) who were attempting to add to the work of Christ. Paul had come through the region of Galatia, preached the Gospel, planted churches, and continued moving on, as he normally did. However, behind him came a group of men who became known to us as “Judaizers.” Their message was clear: Jesus is a good start, but you need Judaism’s laws, customs, and regulations to really be saved. In other words: Jesus + works = salvation.

Galatians was written to clear up that misunderstanding. The real equation is Jesus + NOTHING = salvation.

As Paul writes…

“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” – Galatians 2:16

Although Paul had every right to call out the Judaizers, we have to be careful of falling into a similar trap. It’s easy to begin thinking that in addition to Jesus, we also have to be doing a lot of good things, read a certain amount of the Bible each day, attend church a certain amount of times each month, etc. Those are all GREAT things and we should be doing them, but if they’re done with the purpose of earning favor with the Lord, we’re failing. They don’t do that. He’s not impressed.

Just like the Judaizers, we have a tendency to complicate the equation…so let’s review:

JESUS + NOTHING = SALVATION

The good works, fruits of the Spirit, desire to attend church, read the Bible, etc., will come with it. A genuine experience with Jesus will create a deep passion within you to do all of those things. But beware of doing those things to earn favor, forgiveness, or love. God’s love simply can’t be purchased.

Another key verse is Galatians 5:1 about not putting on a yoke of bondage any longer. The Law was given to point out our sin, but it doesn’t fix our sin. Instead of living in freedom, however, these Christians had yoked themselves under the bondage of the law again – something that was unnecessary and damaging.

Paul pleads with them to not do this. In chapter 6, he tells them that he’s writing this letter with his own hands in big letter, hoping that they see how important this is to him and to their salvation.

On Friday, we’ll be reading the book of James, which focuses on the flip side of this topic: works. Some people have criticized the Bible and the 2 books by saying that they give opposite viewpoints and conflict with each other, which is obviously not the case. Both sides are necessary.

We need to understand the simplicity of the Gospel and salvation through Christ alone, but we also need to question our faith if there’s no fruit to show for it…but that’s a different blog.