Bible In 90 Days 60: 1 PETER

Regardless of which concert you went to, who was performing, or which genre of music they played, one thing probably happened at the end of the concert: an encore. The crowd loved the music so much and were so bummed that the show was over that even when the lights went out and the band exited the stage, the crowd stood and cheered, screaming for an encore.

It’s great when the band comes back for an encore, but it’s normally only 1 or 2 songs, then they leave for good. It’s the opposite when it comes to our lives: life on Earth is short, but the real show happens after life on earth is over!

The book of 1 Peter is all about getting us ready for what’s next.

I recently finished teaching through the book of 1 Peter, in a series I called …To Be Continued, which hinted at the fact that life on earth isn’t it (thankfully) – it’s to be continued for all of eternity in heaven (for those who follow Christ). It was a powerful book to study and it took me 25 weeks to teach through verse-by-verse. You can watch and/or listen to all 25 teachings HERE.

One thing you may have picked up on as you read through the book was Peter’s references to how temporary life on earth is…

He calls the Christians he’s writing to “pilgrims” in 1:1.

He talks about how they should live “throughout the time of your stay here” (1:17), which sounds like language that the receptionist at a hotel would use during your temporary stay.

Later in 2:11, he calls them “sojourners” and “pilgrims” – more references to the temporary state of their time on earth.

Think about how different you treat a temporary dwelling and a permanent dwelling. You don’t change out the carpets and upgrade the bathroom tile in a hotel room – you’re only there for the weekend! Why invest time, money, and energy into something that won’t last? I’d ask you the same question when it comes to life on earth: why invest time, money, and energy into something that won’t last? Live instead for eternity. For those who follow Christ, life is to be continued in heaven after you breathe your last breath.

One of Peter’s favorite words in this book is “salvation.” He uses it quite a few times because he’s always looking ahead to what’s next – the completion of his salvation when he enters heaven!

Throughout the book he talks about many things in our lives that a lifestyle modeled after eternity will impact. He mentions things like suffering (many of the Christians who he wrote this letter to were undergoing, or about to undergo, some extreme persecution for their faith), living as a witness, submitting to government, marital relationships, relationships in the workplace, serving within the church, and more.

The reality is, when you live in the light of eternity, it effects every square inch of your life.

Everything changes and you gain an entirely new perspective when you live with eternity in mind!

Try it today – base every interaction, thought, and circumstance off the fact that heaven is right around the corner and you want to take as many people with you as possible. It will change your whole outlook on life!

Bible In 90 Days 59: JAMES

*I had intended to finish blogging through the Bible in 90 days, corresponding with reading through the Bible at the same time, but due to some severe burns on my hand that I received last Sunday, my blogging had to be temporarily paused. I did finish reading, but today, I continue the blogging. I have this blog and 6 more after it that I will write over the course of the next week, completing my blogs through the whole Bible! To those of you who follow these “through the Bible” blogs, thanks, and sorry for the delay.*

Speaking of severe injuries, if you have ever had to be rushed to the emergency room, one of the very first things they did was check your “vital signs” (heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, etc.). By looking at your vital signs, the nurse/doctor can get a good feel for your over all well-being and can also see any specific areas that they need to focus in on. Spiritually, the book of James works in a similar way for us.

The book of James is all about assessing our spiritual vital signs to see if our faith is alive or not.

James is a unique book in the New Testament for a few reasons…

- It’s the only book written by Jesus’ half-brother, James. That fact by itself makes it pretty amazing because John 7:5 says that as Jesus grew up and continued in ministry, His brothers didn’t believe He was the Messiah. I think the whole coming-back-from-the-dead thing really got their attention! James eventually became a great man of faith and prayer, setting an example for us!

- The book of James is also commonly referred to as “The Proverbs of the New Testament” because of the variety of topics that it discusses. If you’ve read Proverbs, you know that it talks about a whole range of topics, most of the time, even within the same paragraph. Same with James. Just like your vital signs point to a variety of areas in your physical body, the book of James helps to assess many areas of your spiritual life. James talks about issues like trials and suffering, favoritism, obedience to God’s Word, your tongue (speech), prayer, and more. They’re all vital topics for anyone to assess to see if their faith is alive or not. After all, as the one of the most well-known verses in James says…

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” – James 2:26

Although many have accused the book of James of being in contradiction to Paul’s book of Galatians, I disagree. In Galatians, Paul makes it clear that all they need for salvation is Jesus. The Judaizers had come in and tried to add to that, but Paul wrote Galatians to clarify. James, on the other hand, emphasizes works. However, within the context of Scripture, we know that James isn’t implying works-based salvation, but more importantly, works that spring from true salvation. Think about it –  if you’re really come into contact with the living God, your life will be the proof. There will be fruit in your life from that interaction.

Galatians and James actually go hand-in-hand. Jesus is all you need for salvation, and the works that spring from your salvation will be proof of its legitimacy.

I hope you not only enjoyed reading James, but that it also gave you a chance to take your own spiritual vital signs to assess if you’re really alive in Christ. Saying you believe in God is not enough in itself. As James puts it,

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” – James 2:19

The demons take their belief a step further than many humans do – they tremble at the knowledge of God!

Don’t settle for a simple head-knowledge about God. You need heart-knowledge that plays itself out in your daily life!

Bible In 90 Days 58: HEBREWS

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

Do you remember the days of show & tell? You brought in your favorite toy/pet/food to show your class and reveal your awesomeness for owning that thing. In a way, the book of Hebrews is like show & tell with Jesus. It displays how much better He is than the Old Testament system, priests, and sacrifices.

Hebrews is a daunting book to read, but especially to recap. There is so much to be said that it’s impossible to do it justice, but here’s one of the main themes… JESUS IS BETTER.

He’s better than the angels (1:4);

He’s better than Moses (3:3);

He’s better than every high priest (5:1-3, 7:27);

He has a better covenant (7:22, 8:6, 8:13);

His Tabernacle and offerings are better (9:1-14);

and He made a better sacrifice (10:1-4).

Hebrews reveals that the Old Testament system, although functional in its day, has now been superseded by the One who it was all pointing to in the first place: JESUS!

In other words, if the Old Testament was a rotary dial phone, Jesus is an iPhone. (Of course we know He’s cooler than that, but you get the idea.)

Using the Old Testament and its worship systems as a background, the author of Hebrews paints a picture of Jesus as the Great High Priest who is better than all those who came before Him.

But it doesn’t stop at just lifting up Jesus, it does what any Bible book should do and it points to the response we should have in light of how great Jesus is. For instance, Hebrews 4 says that since our High Priest is Jesus, we should “hold fast our confession” (cling to our faith in Him) and approach Him with confidence. Hebrews 10 echoes some of the same thoughts…

“and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:21-23

Continuing with that theme of faith-filled living, the author dives into numerous Old Testament example of faith in Hebrews 11. Many people call this chapter “The Hall of Faith” because it’s such an amazing display of men and women who did amazing things “by faith.”

They all set an example for us because they were ordinary people who God used to do extraordinary things. They weren’t superhuman by any means – they sinned, but they also loved Jesus and trusted Him to work in their lives despite their faults!

Hebrews 12 continues with what we can do since Jesus is so great. We can endure sacrifice, chastisement, and more.

Although it’s very simple, I believe this verse from the final chapter of Hebrews paints a simple, but magnificent picture of Jesus…

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8

In a world of constantly changing systems, leaders, public officials, rules, and loopholes, it’s refreshing to remember that at least one things stays constant: JESUS. He’s all we need and He’ll always be all we need.

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