Selective Hearing

For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 HCSB

I have had chronic problems with my ears and have had difficulty hearing for years. As a child I had frequent ear infections. At the age of 21 I had my first ear operation. Since that time I have had three additional operations on my left ear to improve my hearing. If it were not for the hearing aids that I wear in both ears, I would not be able to hear very well. Some people have accused me of having “selective hearing” instead of “hard hearing,” indicating that instead of not hearing someone I select what I want to hear.

The concept of “selective hearing” was also prevalent in Paul’s day. He said that the people did not want to hear sound doctrine and teaching; instead they wanted to hear something that would make them feel good. In today’s culture we have some “feel good” or “prosperity” preachers who only preach what people want to hear. Crowds seem to flock to their churches because they are hearing what they desire and would like to believe.

Challenge: What are you iching to hear? Do you have “selective hearing?” Attend a church where the truth of God’s Word is properly taught and proclaimed. Look for ways to be a better listener and listen to the needs of those around you.

Note: Last week while my mother was in the hospital, my oldest son, Nathan, was kind enough to design and send out the daily devotions that my youngest son, Jonathan, wrote in my absence. Please continue to remember my mother in your prayers.

The Balance Between Rebuking and Encouraging

Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4:2 HCSB

As a parent I have had to give instruction and correction to all four of my children over the years. At the same time all of my children also needed to hear encouraging words and praise. We all want to hear our parents say, “Good Job”. The same is true in the work force. As I have conducted annual reviews for employees, I have always tried to provide some positive words while also giving words of guidance if needed.

Paul encouraged Timothy to fulfill his ministry, to be persistent in proclaiming the message even when it was not easy. Timothy was to rebuke, correct, and teach the people with a spirit of patience and encouragement. There must be a balance between rebuking and and encouraging people who need direction. It is sometimes difficult to be patient when we understand what people should be doing and it appears they aren’t making the necessary effort to succeed. Paul admonishes that we are to have great patience.

Challenge – As a believer you should proclaim the Good News to those with whom you have contact every day. It should be done with gentleness and patience. If you must rebuke and correct, be sure to include a word of encouragement.

Written Words

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 HCSB Written words are amazing things and can be very powerful. All you are looking at right now is a series of pixels on a screen. These pixels are organized into understandable shapes that form letters. Even more interesting is that these shapes are in a very specific order. These once autonomous shapes form words or symbols that represent something. Finally, these words are placed into sentences that form thoughts and communicate ideas. Amazing isn’t it? These symbols have been organized in a specific way to articulate a particular message. Have you ever stopped and pondered why God has used written words to reveal Himself? It is astounding to think that God compiled letters, words, and sentences to communicate to us. He boldly walked onto the stage of
history and allowed people to write stories and events. God revealed himself in letters, words, and sentences that we can now read. It is simply amazing! Was God’s goal to merely to communicate to us? Communication was certainly part of His plan… But God had much more in mind when Moses dipped that first quill into ink… God desired to reveal Himself through Scripture so that those reading it would be transformed through encountering Him in the pages of Scripture. Scripture is more about transformation than it is about information. In these two verses we find Paul describing various ways God uses the Scriptures to bring about transformation. However, these functions hinge on Timothy understanding that all Scripture is God-breathed. It is only when one believes that Scripture is God-breathed that one can truly feel the weight of the words on its pages. This weightiness comes from something much deeper than letters, words, and sentences no matter how profound they
seem… this weight comes from the glory of God that has been packed into each letter. Words are truly amazing. However, the function and weightiness of a word is directly connected with its source. Paul helped Timothy see the source of the Scriptures. These are not merely ink strokes, letters, words, and sentences. These are the Words of the Infinitely Holy God that breathed all into existence! These Words are more than merely words… They are the glory of God that transforms people’s lives.
Challenge: May we always be filled with wonder that God chose to write the Word to us and for us. Feel the power of God’s Glory saturating every letter in His Book… For it is in this that we can allow His Word to have the authority it was always meant to have in our lives.
Note: This devotional was graciously written by guest writer Jonathan Moore, son of Ron Moore. Ron’s mother has been in the hospital this week but she is doing much better now. Thanks for your prayers and concern.

People of the Book

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know who taught you, and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 HCSB

I was enjoying some authentic Turkish food while listening to a former Muslim – now Christian – speak on how to engage and witness to Muslims. About ten minutes into his presentation he said something that stopped me in my tracks. Addressing the crowd of Christians, the speaker said: “You are all people of the Book.” This statement may have seemed trivial to most, but for me it struck a very large chord in my heart.
Memories flooded my mind… Memories from when I had lived with a group of Muslims in Africa for over two months. I had watched “people of the book” live day to day life. Their devotion was unlike anything I had seen. Their devotion to the Koran and Muhammad dwarfed my own devotion to the Bible and Jesus. I felt a chasm in my heart between the devotion of these African Muslims to a false prophet and my own devotion to Jesus, the Son of God… a chasm God was about to erase. This speaker was not offering pious lip service by telling the audience they were “people of the Book.” No, this speaker meant it. He knew something I could never understand because of his upbringing as a Muslim. He knew what it was like to be on the opposite side of the chasm. He revealed that this chasm, in fact, does not exist. Christians are very much “people of the Book” – and this Book should define everything about us. The apostle Paul understood what it meant to be a “person of the Book.”
From childhood, he was trained in the sacred writings known as the Torah. Paul was fervently devoted to these sacred writings and followed every word meticulously. His zeal for following all of God’s laws drove Paul to kill Christians because he believed Christians were a threat to God’s laws. Devotion would be an understatement for Paul’s adherence to the Torah. Yes, Paul was most certainly a “person of the Book.” Paul wanted Timothy to understand that he too was a “person of the Book,” that he too was handed a sacred text (The Torah) that revealed the Truth about Jesus Christ. Paul exhorted Timothy to continue in the Truth that had been passed down to him, to cling to what he learned from these sacred writings. Timothy was to be different from the world and false teachers… He was to be a “person of the Book” – fiercely devoted to every letter of God’s Word.

Challenge: As “people of the Book,” may we be fiercely devoted to every letter of God’s Word.

Note: This devotional was written by guest writer Jonathan Moore.

The Seed of the Church

But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from them all. In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:10-12

“Allow me to become food for the wild beast, through whose instrumentality it will be granted to me to get to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground up by the teeth of wild beast, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ…” – Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, 117AD
Persecution is inevitable for the Church. The writers of the New Testament unanimously agree about the very real prospect of persecution. Even Jesus candidly revealed the impeding persecution his disciples would face after He was gone. Scripture seems emphatic that persecution is a norm for the Christian, not an exception. These verses do not deviate from the theme of persecution that seems to saturate the pages of the New Testament. Paul does not paint an endearing or romanticized view of persecution. Instead he employs memories of his own persecutions to draw Timothy’s distracted eyes back to the centralizing Truth of the Gospel that is worth any sacrifice. Paul put to use a similar approach that the risen Savior used to encourage and refocus his disciples after His death. Jesus appeared to a group of frightened and doubting disciples and encouraged them by showing them the holes in his hands, feet, and side. Through this, Jesus was encouraging his disciples, showing
them that following Him will be difficult, but the Truth of the Gospel is worth every bit of sacrifice and His scars prove this to be true.The blood that stains the pages of Scripture and Church history is proof that we possess something priceless… Something worth more than the very breath in our lungs. The quote which began this devotional was penned by Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, as he was in transit to his impeding execution in Rome for failing to honor the emperor. May we be encouraged by the example of men and women like Ignatius who have carried the cross of persecution for our sake. For it is through their willingness to persevere through persecution that we now have the Truth.

Challenge: May we be encouraged in our faith by looking upon the wounds of our Savior and the saints that followed in His footsteps. May we be reminded that the Gospel we now possess has come to us at a great price. And may we also remember that we too may face fierce persecution.

Note: Today’s devotional was written by guest writer Jonathan Moore.

First Things First

Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist truth, men who are corrupt in mind, worthless in regard to the faith. 2 Timothy 3:8

We all resist change. Just evaluate our own behavior. Many of us sit at the same place around the dinner table for every meal and in the same location as we worship each Sunday in church. Consider the clothes in our closets. We typically wear a certain style of clothes and there are certain colors we prefer. More than likely there are certain forms of music we like and dislike. Generally speaking, we usually do not like to change.

When Paul talked about resistance in these verses he was talking about people resisting Moses and others resisting the truth of the new teachings of Jesus. They were unwilling to change or accept anything new. They were unwilling to believe. I have observed people who have gripped the back of the pew when invited to accept Jesus as Lord while resisting the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Today people still resist the message of Jesus Christ, but that should not deter us from sharing the God News with others.

Challenge: Are there changes in your life that you are resisting? Be open to change and doing things differently. Boldly share the message of Jesus with others even when you meet resistance.

First Things First

But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people! 2 Timothy 3:1-5 HCSB

As a youth pastor I cautioned teenagers to be careful regarding their selection of friends and with whom they spent time. As much as we hope that the good will rub off on the bad, history tells us that the bad usually rubs off on the good. It has been said, “One bad apple spoils the bunch.” I have observed students who were raised in loving homes with Christian parents and who were taught properly make bad choices and select bad friends.

Paul warned Timothy to avoid people who were self-absorbed, seeking their own interests, loved having more possessions, did not have any humility, scoffed at God, disobeyed their parents, had an ungrateful attitude, were unforgiving, lacked self-control, spread rumors, and where lovers of pleasure instead of lovers of God. What a list of negative traits! These same traits can be found in many people today. In another Scripture we, as believers, are challenged to be in the world but not of the world. We must share the Good News with a lost and dying world, but we must be careful with whom we associate lest we become like them.

Challenge: Be careful with whom you associate on a regular basis. The characteristics of ungodly people will have an impact on your life. Take the message of Jesus to your work associates, friends, relatives and neighbors. Set a good example by doing what is opposite of the list of negative characteristics found in these verses.

First Things First

The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth. Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil’s trap, having been captured by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 HCSB

As a part of my job working for the Missouri Baptist Convention I traveled around the state speaking, preaching, and leading conferences. One of the topics of conversation among fellow workers was the “speed traps” that were located across the state. Many times there were policemen in hidden locations where they could catch people driving faster than the speed limit and issue a citation. Usually the speed limit would drop drastically and unless one knew the speed limit was changing, there was not enough time to slow down. That is when the blue lights would begin to flash and the driver would know he had been caught speeding.

The Devil is always trying to catch people. It started with Eve and continues today. The Devil always tells lies and will try to deceive. He makes us believe that if only we make a certain decision or possess the latest gadget, we will feel contented and successful. The reality is that when we follow the temptations of the Devil we will usually find ourselves in a trap of lies and deception. The Devil is very crafty and always makes sin look attractive, but once we take the first bite of sin we realize it is bitter. Next we experience feelings of guilt and depression.

Challenge: Beware of the Devil’s traps. He has set his traps and is hiding, just waiting to catch you. He roams around like a lion looking for whom He may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Pray that God will give you the strength to resist the temptations of the Devil.