1 TIMOTHY 3:16-17

"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us...God uses it to prepare and equip His people to do every good work."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

1 CORINTHIANS - Pay Attention!

I wonder what Paul would think about the world we live in.

Would he be on Facebook? Would he have a Twitter account?

Oh, I'd like to hope not.

Paul was single-minded in his pursuit of God, and I'm not thinking that he would tolerate the way social media turns us all away from what's truly important. How technology makes it all too easy to ignore eternity…

Today's "Bible Pick 'Ems" are his very words:

"I want you to be free from the concerns of this life…I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible."
(1 Corinthians 7:32, 35)

Can't you just hear Paul saying the same thing today?

Now I'm not slamming social media per se. I'm just echoing what Paul is saying here. People, we need to THINK about what we're doing with our time.

We live in a busy world. It's full of enticing entertainment, and clever gadgets, and a multitude of ways to pursue gratification, or amusement, or escape. In short, it's a world full of distractions.

And, as believers, we cannot afford to be distracted.

Why not?

Because time is short. Because the message of the Good News is desperately needed. Because we have been given a commission.

"And then he told them, 'Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.'" (Matthew 16:15)

Paul took that commission very seriously. He actually travelled to distant corners to preach the Gospel. Because he knew personally what it was like to be awakened by the Light of the World. He knew the power of salvation. He knew how crucial eternal matters are.

Do we?

The enemy has a thousand (a million? bazillion?) ways to sidetrack us. He's very, very good at it. He does NOT want us to serve the Lord. He wants us to worship the world. He wants us unfocused and diverted

But Paul urges us to let go.

To live as unhindered by the cares of this world as we can. To be as free as possible from anything that might keep us from doing God's work.

Yes, it's important to be responsible to our jobs, our homes, and our families.

But oh, we must love and serve God first. Above all else. With no distractions.

So, let's take today and re-evaluate our lives, and think about how we spend our time.

Let's ask some tough questions.

Are we allowing ourselves to be consumed by the things of the world? Have we gotten sucked into the social media web? Do we spend too much time on our computerswatching TVplaying with *apps* or texting on our phones?

Are we wasting time?

Paul admonishes us, warns us.

If he was here today, I think he'd say something like this, "Make the most of the time before Christ's return. Life is short! Don't allow yourself to be preoccupied with the world."

Every person in every generation should have this sense of urgency about telling the Good News to others.

It is the ONLY thing that matters in the long run.

Thanks, Paul – we needed the reminder.

Do you need to take another look at how you spend your time?

(I am linked today with Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays, and Peggy at Soaking On SONday. Please feel free to join me during the week at my other blog, Sharon Sharing God!)

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2 TIMOTHY - Famous Last Words

You know, "Bible Pick 'Ems" takes me on an interesting journey every week.

Sometimes I have to pick and tug, and ponder and mull over the verses that I find myself reading – like a miner digging away at hidden ore. I have to really search hard for the message God wants me to bring to you.

(Like the time I landed in Leviticus…)

Other times, I find myself smack dab in the middle of abundant riches – verses just full of golden nuggets from the Word.

Today would be one of the rich days.

I have landed in the beginning of 2 Timothy.

Let's start with a little background. The great apostle Paul finds himself in prison – yet again – arrested for preaching the Good News of Christ. Paul, one of the most knowledgeable, influential, and beloved men of history is facing death. He knows that he will soon be executed, and so he writes his final thoughts to his "son" Timothy.

Paul passes on the torch of leadership, reminding Timothy of what is truly important, andencouraging him in the faith. Because of the circumstances, this is the most intimate and moving of all Paul's letters.

So, as we read 2 Timothy, it makes a difference to know that we are reading the last words of this great man of God. And we are wise to pay attention to the words that the Holy Spirit gave him to say at the end of his life.

I love analogies – (I think that's a product of the little *English major* that beats in my heart.) And Paul is so very good at them!

In the first two chapters of 2 Timothy, he uses three images of the believer. Let's explore those a little bit.

First of all, he calls us to be good soldiers of Jesus. Have you ever noticed how the Bible is full of war imagery battles, soldiers, weapons? I think it does us good to remember that we are not just living life – we are waging war. We fight against unseen enemies, and they are led by the greatest enemy of God – the devil. It is crucial that we fight like a good soldier.

What does that look like?

Paul tells us – "Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them." (2 Timothy 2:4)

Hmmm…sounds like an admonition to have our eyes on heavenly matters – to be focused clearly on eternity. To concentrate our efforts on pleasing our commanding officer – our Lord Jesus Christ, the Captain of our souls.

Second, Paul tells us to be approved workers. And he gives us an idea of what that means.

"Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

A good worker focuses not on the paycheck, but on the approval of the boss. To that end, a good worker works hard. He works with integrity and honesty. He pays attention to detail, and strives for excellence. He focuses on truth.

And finally, Paul revisits the imagery of being an athlete. He has previously called us to run the race before us with endurance – to press on to the finish line – to run the race to win.

How can we do this?

Paul says, "…athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules."
(2 Timothy 2:5)

The rules dictate the way the race is run. They make the runner effective. Sounds like we need the Guidebookthe Word of God. This is where we learn the rules – and learn how to follow them correctly.

These are great words at any time. But picture this – what if you were leaning in at the bars of a dank and dark prison cell? What if in the shadows you could just barely see a thin and haggard man? What if his voice was barely above a whisper, and you had to still yourself to hear what he was saying?

And you did this because you knew it was his last message.

Oh yes, Paul’s words resonate deeply, don't they?

And as you listen in, all of a sudden the voice grows stronger, and these words ring out loud and clear in today's "Bible Pick 'Ems":

"…the word of God cannot be chained. So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen…

If we die with him,
we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship,
we will reign with him.
…he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is.

...God's truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription:
'The LORD knows those who are his…'" (2 Timothy 2:9-13, 19)

Famous last words.

Yes, Paul, I hear you loud and clear…


Read 2 Timothy for yourself – and heed the wise words of a man of deep faith, undying love, constant hope, tenacious conviction, and profound insight.

(Linked today with Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays, and Peggy at Soaking On SONday. Please feel free to join me during the week at my other blog, Sharon Sharing God!)

"When in doubt, search God out!"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

JEREMIAH - I Remember

I remember.

There are some events in life that are so shocking, so incomprehensible, that they are forever imprinted on our minds and our lives.

September 11, 2001 was just such a moment.

I woke up that morning to what seemed like a normal day. I put on a semblance of a "face" as my youngest prepared for school. We piled into the car, and headed over to pick up the two brothers we car-pooled with. We arrived, I honked the car, and we waited…

…and waited.

Finally, one of the brothers came to the car. Just as he was climbing in, his brother rushed out.

"Where have you guys been?" I asked. "I was worried that we were going to be late."

All of a sudden they both started telling me how a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers, and it was burning, and it looked like our country was under attack…

"Yeah, right," I said. I thought they were joking, or that they'd been playing some video game.

Somberly they replied, "No, it's really happening."

We flipped on the radio. And the tragic story began to unfold. As soon as I got home, Iturned on the television.

And there I sat, glued to the screen, for the next two months.

You remember, it was stunning, mesmerizing, surreal, and so very, very tragic.

I think, in some way, every American citizen felt those planes crash into their own lives – and security and blind innocence burned to the ground. Our country would never be the same…

But we recovered scarred and more wary, yesbut we still stood strong as a nation.

What happened?

I'm sorry, but I don't think this country learned the most important lesson of 9/11. It didn't turn back to God. Maybe temporarily, yes – but a life-changing repentance, a confession of sin and a resolve to live by moral, Christian values? Not so much.

We cannot afford to miss the message of 9/11. Evil can reach our shores and decimate us on our own "turf." We are perhaps more vulnerable than we think. But most of all, we have forgotten our God, in whom we should trust.

Today's "Bible Pick 'Ems" – though originally a message given to the nation of Israel through the prophet, Jeremiah – should serve as a warning to us, too:

"'I am watching them closely, and I see every sin. They cannot hope to hide from me. I will double their punishment for all their sins, because they have…filled my territory with their evil deeds…Now I will show them my power; now I will show them my might. At last they will know that I am the LORD.'"
(Jeremiah 16:17-18, 21)

I feel like America, and the world itself, is half-asleep – dozing comfortably in a sin-soaked dream. We're calmly hitting the *snooze button* on the alarm that's trying to alert us to danger.

I shudder to think what a "wake-up call" might look like.

Yes, let's take today and remember all those people – civilians and rescuers – who lost their lives on that terrible day. Let's remember the people they left behind. Let's stop and honor all the people who have fought since that day for the cause of freedom.

Let's erect a proud ***star-spangled banner*** in our hearts, and stand tall as a nation.

But, I pray that we do one more thing – the most important thing.

I pray that we remember our LORD, the Almighty God of Heaven's Armies, the one true God that rules over all the world in His Sovereignty.

May we as a nation, and as individuals, remember and turn back – back to Him.

Back to true worship, back to His Holy Word, back to faith in His Son, back to right living and godly values.

Let us say along with Jeremiah, the words of a people wholly devoted to God:

"LORD, you are [our] strength and fortress, [our] refuge in the day of trouble!
Nations from around the world will come to you and say, 'Our ancestors left us a foolish heritage, for they worshiped worthless idols…'
But we worship at your throne – eternal, high, and glorious!

O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who turn away from you will be disgraced…for they have abandoned the LORD, the fountain of living water.
…[but] blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water." (From Jeremiah 17)

Yes, I remember.

Where were you on 9/11?

And on this anniversary, what is your resolve about worshiping the Lord?

(I am remembering this day with others on Spiritual Sundays, and Soaking on SONday. Please feel free to join me during the week on my other blog, Sharon Sharing God)

"When in doubt, search God out."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

HEBREWS - What A Friend

"You just don't understand!"

I don't know how many times I've said that to someone, or thought it in my heart.

We each have our own uniquely individual *take* on life – and we perceive the circumstances that we experience through distinctly "me-colored" glasses.

And yet, there is something deep in our souls that desperately wants to be understood. We want to be known. We want someone to *get* us.

There is a Native American saying:

"Don't judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins."

Of course, the saying is an admonition against judging other people. But underlying that sentiment is the unspoken thought that the person in the moccasins wants his life to be understood.

So, take the deep-seated need to be understood, coupled with a paltry few people in life that ever really *get* it – and you’ve got the formula for some really lonely people.

There's a cure.

Or, more accurately, I might say that there is The Cure.

Today's "Bible Pick 'Ems" is such a lovely reminder of the One who truly cares:

"We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested." (Hebrews 2:16-18)

I think this is one of the most beautiful passages of Scripture, on so many levels.

So, let's break it down.

First of all, Jesus did not come to earth to help the angels. They did not need redemption. His creatures – His human creatures – did. The one and only reason that Jesus came to earth was to die. And He came to die for us. We were the lost sheep, the ones who had strayed so far from the Truth. We were the hopeless ones, estranged and separated from God. We were the descendants of Abraham – the ones who desperately needed a Messiah.

Second, Jesus was made in every respect like us. That means He was human in every sense of the word. He got tired, and hungry, and probably even sick once in a while. He felt human emotions, and thought human thoughts. Though He may not have walked in our moccasins – He most certainly logged many, many miles in our sandals!

Third, God deemed it necessary for Jesus to be like us. It wasn't just a convenient way for Him to relate to us. It was crucial. The verses preceding today's passage explain why:"Because God’s children are human beings – made of flesh and blood – the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying." (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Fourth, Jesus became our High Priest. In the Old Testament, the high priest was the mediator between God and His people. His job was to offer sacrifices and to intercede with God for forgiveness of their sins. Now, Jesus came to once and for all pay the penalty.

Merciful because He knew our weakness, and He knew our need.
Merciful because He knew we had no hope without Him.

Faithful because He never wavered from His message or His purpose.
Faithful because He did what He came to do.

Finally, our verses today end with a great promise.

He is able to help us.


Because He understands us – completely. He has seen the world through "human-colored" glasses. He knows how we think and feel. He knows how our bodies function. He really and truly *gets* us.

He faced struggles and suffering and temptation. He is the One who overcame it all.

"You just don't understand!"

We might be able to say that to any number of people, but never to Jesus. He is the only person who fully understands us – and knows us better than we know ourselves.

He is our High Priest, who intercedes for us at the throne of God.

"Who then will condemn us? No one – for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God's right hand, pleading for us." (Romans 8:34)

It might go something like this:

"Father, see Sharon? Can we talk? You see, I understand what she's going through…"

Won't you join me today in celebrating the very Good News that we have a Savior who understands us – thoroughly, inside and out – and who loves us with an everlasting love!

We have a Friend.

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit,

Oh, what needless pain we bear,

All because we do not carry

Everything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful,

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness;

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy-laden,

Cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

In His arms He'll take and shield thee – Thou wilt find a solace there.

(Sidenote: Unbeknownst to me ahead of time, this was the first song sung at my aunt's memorial service yesterday. Evidently, it was one of her favorites. God just winked at me again - and I felt my aunt smile!)

(Linked today with Charlotte and Ginger at Spiritual Sundays, and Peggy at Soaking On SONday. Please feel free to hop on over to my other blog during the week - Sharon Sharing God)

"When in doubt, search God out!"