9/23/17 Suffer Persecution Joyfully

“Right now, you are suffering.  It is not the first time, and it won’t be the last.  Everyone seems to be turning against you, no matter where you turn, and it seems that your world is crumbling all around you.  But I tell you, take great joy in your suffering!  It is through suffering that your faith is tested.  You discover in these times whether your faith is true and strong.  You grow in your faith and in your relationship with God through Jesus, His Son.  You are, like precious metal, being refined through fire, and when you emerge from the flames, you will be stronger, purer, and more beautiful in your spirit, as long as you persevere through it all.  But unlike precious metals, which will one day be destroyed, your faith, once tested through the flames of persecution, will live for all eternity.  And you will have such joy in your heart and soul, because you will have proof that your faith is genuine.  Others will see that your faith is strong and true, and they will count you among those whose faith they admire.  But even if you must endure suffering and testing of your faith until the day that Jesus calls you home to Him in Heaven, remember that God is with you, always, and will never abandon you, even for a second.  Though you cannot see Him now, you believe in our Messiah, Jesus, and that belief fills you with a hope and a joy so glorious that you cannot even find words to tell of it.  Live in that hope, in that joy, and in that strong faith, because you know that you have already received your salvation from sin’s death penalty.  Though you are going through suffering and persecution now, though it may seem interminable while you are in it, remember that it is only a moment compared to the eternity of joy that awaits you in Heaven as your reward.”

 

1 Peter 1:6-9

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9/22/17 The Incredible Rebirth

“The God and the Father of Jesus, our Messiah and our Master, because of who He Is, deserves all our honor and praises forever.  He knew before He created the world that Adam and Eve would succumb to Satan’s temptation, and through His great love and mercy, He had a plan in place from the beginning to rescue His wayward children from the death sentence of our sinfulness.  He sent Jesus here to die in our place, taking the punishment for our sins, and then raising Him from death, defeating sin and death once and for all.  When this happened, all who witnessed it and believed what Jesus had told us from the beginning of His work here, finally understood what it all meant – that through His sacrifice on our behalf and His resurrection to life again, all who trust in Him are reborn.  Once we put our faith and trust in Him to pay for our sins, we are re-created, made into new creatures who are no longer slaves to sin, but now are true sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, absolved of our sins and freed to pursue the life that He calls us to live for Him.  We go, then, from a life of hopelessness, never knowing exactly what our eternal fate will be or whether there is any point in our existence at all, to a life filled with hope and joy, knowing that our place in Heaven is secured for all eternity, that we were created for a purpose, and that God Himself will help us to fulfill that purpose, through the leading of His Holy Spirit.  We are co-heirs with Jesus to something that cannot be destroyed, damaged, taken away, or used for evil – the Kingdom of Heaven.  We are sustained in our faith by the power of God’s Holy Spirit living within us, knowing that Heaven is before us, places in the Kingdom having already been prepared and waiting for our arrival, when suddenly the curtain will be lifted from our eyes and we will see the glory of God right in front of us.  But until that day comes, God will be with us through every trial we face, as long as we hold on to our faith in Him, and will bring us safely through whatever comes our way.”

 

1 Peter 1:3-5

9/21/17 Nero’s Great Blunder

It is the year 64 AD, and Peter is with Mark in Rome, while Paul is in prison and awaiting his execution order.  Emperor Nero, after setting fire to the city and seeing just about all of Rome burned to the ground, sees the reaction of the people and begins to realize what a huge mistake he has made.  The Roman people are devastated, as the fire has destroyed not only their homes and businesses, but also their temples and cultural centers.  They feel as if everything they have believed in is a lie, because their gods could not stop the fire, or even prevent themselves from being destroyed in it.  So Nero blames the Christians, already under persecution for being associated with the Jews and with luring Gentiles away from their pagan gods, and Christian persecution grows by leaps and bounds.  Peter witnesses all of this and decides a letter is in order to encourage all the Christian Jews who have been scattered all over Asia Minor because of this time of persecution.  He dictates to Silvanus:  “I, Peter, an apostle of Jesus the Messiah, send my greetings to my fellow Christian Jews who have been dispersed to Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.  I write to those who God our Heavenly Father called before time began, to be His own through belief in His Son, Jesus, for their salvation by the Holy Spirit.  He calls them to live in obedience to Him, through the blood of Jesus that covers them as often as they renew their covenant with Him by coming to the table to share the communion meal – bread that signifies Jesus’ body, and wine that signifies the sprinkling of His blood upon our bodies, covering our sins with His sacrifice.  I pray that God’s grace and peace would be multiplied upon you all.”

 

1 Peter 1:1-2, https://www.gty.org/library/bible-introductions/MSB60/first-peter

9/20/17 Come Quickly!

“Pass my greeting and my love on to Priscilla and Aquila, and to the whole household of Onesiphorus.  All I know of Erastus is that he is still in Corinth.  Trophimus is in Miletus, the last place we were together, and has remained there because he is sick.  I pray that you will do all you can to come to me before winter.  I send you greetings from Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, Claudia, and all the brothers and sisters here in Rome.  If the opportunity presents itself, I intend to make Linus a bishop here in Rome before my death.  I pray that our Messiah and Lord, Jesus, God’s only Son, would be with you and all the brothers and sisters with you, to strengthen and uphold your spirits, and that His grace would sustain you all.  Amen.”  Paul finishes dictating this final letter to his beloved son in the faith with tears in his eyes.  He rolls up the scroll, seals it, and sends it off with a trusted courier and his fervent prayers, hoping that the letter will arrive in Ephesus quickly and that Timothy would set off for Rome immediately.

 

2 Timothy 4:19-22

 

9/19/17 God Is My Strength

“But even though all my friends abandoned me in my time of need, God was with me every step of the way, holding me up and giving me His strength.  He helped me to continue to stand strong, proclaiming His message without holding anything back, so that all the Gentiles might have a chance to hear it.  God gave me the words of life, not only for those around me, but for myself as well, reminding me of the reason for my work and delivering me the courage I needed to be bold for Him in a moment of great weakness.  It was as if I was Daniel in the lion’s den, and God delivered me out of the mouths of the lions.  I know that He will be with me always, and will never abandon me, even if everyone here on earth abandons me.  He will keep me safe in His arms, protecting me from evil, and keeping the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven as a light always standing before me.  All glory and honor are His forever and ever.  Amen!”

 

2 Timothy 4:17-18

9/18/17 The Whole World Against Paul

“Alexander the coppersmith in Ephesus has done much to hinder the work of Jesus there, and has hurt me personally in his influence with Rome against me during my recent trial.  I mention him so that you will be aware of the evil he is capable of, and be on your guard against him.  He has been against us and against the message of Jesus since the beginning, having worked with me against Jesus before I came to believe in Him as our Messiah.  But God will be his judge and reward him according to what he has done.  When I stood trial before the Roman prefect, charged with having a part in the great fire of Rome, all my friends left me, fearing for their own lives should they be seen as supporting me.  There was no one to aid me in my defense.  Though I was hurt by their decision to flee from any association with me, I do not blame them for their actions, because I do not want my friends to be imprisoned and tortured as I have been, or to have to live each moment fearing that it will be their last.  I pray that God will not hold this against them, either.”

 

2 Timothy 4:14-16

9/17/17 Only Luke Remains

“My heart longs to see you and speak with you face to face one more time before I leave this world.  Please, try to come to me as quickly as you can, because although my death is imminent, I do not know if it will be hours or weeks until my time comes to stand before Nero in judgment.  Your presence will bring me comfort, if you do arrive in time.  Everyone else has left me.  Demas has turned away from me, choosing the pleasures of the world over the eternal joy of serving Jesus.  He left for Thessalonica.  Crescens has gone to Galatia, and I sent Titus to Dalmatia.  Now, Luke is the only one still here with me.  When you come, bring Mark with you.  He knows my work well, and will be helpful to both of us.  Tychicus was assisting me, but I have sent him to Ephesus, so Mark will be able to pick up where Tychicus left off.  When you pass through Troas, please visit Carpus and ask him for the cloak I left with him, and the books, especially the parchments where I have my notes written, and bring them with you.  It is growing cold here, and I would relish the warmth of that cloak and the inner warmth of those words of Scripture in my books.”

 

2 Timothy 4:9-13

9/16/17 Finished The Race

“I am trusting you to take over for me in this ministry, this work that God called me to do, because even as I write these words, I am preparing for Emperor Nero to call me before him and sentence me to death.  Any moment I will be poured out like a wine offering to God.  But I am ready.  I have worn the armor of God and fought every day for Him.  I have run the race of faith, finishing the course of my ministry faithfully.  I am looking forward to the crown of righteousness that God, the only One who judges impartially and completely rightly, has prepared for me.  But remember, this is a reward awaiting all God’s faithful servants who are eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return, and if you continue till the end as you have begun, you may be assured of this reward as well.”

 

2 Timothy 2:6-8

9/15/17 Watch Out For The Poison Ivy

“Be vigilant and purposeful in your work.  This opposition that you are facing is only the beginning of the trouble that will come upon the church.  People are always looking for something to take away a feeling of guilt that accompanies those lingering sins that they have not yet dealt with.  They will latch onto false doctrines that assure them that Jesus will forgive them for whatever they do, and therefore they do not need to stop sinning.  People will be looking for teachers whose doctrines go along with the sins that they do not want to cut out of their lives.  They will be happy with altered or watered down doctrine, as long as it supports what they want.  Remember the story Jesus told about the weeds being allowed to grow in the garden with the good plants until harvest time.  Many weeds will come into the garden of the church, and they will try their best to choke out the faith of the good plants.  Be on your guard against these false teachers and warn your people against those who teach lies and who use flattery and appeasement to gain followers.  It is a simple thing to fill people’s ears with flattering lies so that they will be deaf to the words of truth.  As for you, be aware of what is going on around you so that you will not stumble into a trap.  Persevere in the face of persecution.  Spread the word of God far and wide, in its entirety.  Be vigilant in doing all that you have vowed to do before God.”

 

2 Timothy 4:3-5

9/14/17 Timothy’s Charge

“I lay this solemn charge upon you in the presence of God our Father, His Son Jesus the Messiah, and His Holy Spirit, who will judge both the living and the dead when He returns to call His own to Him and His eternal Kingdom begins:  Proclaim the word of God!  Be ready to answer God’s call at any hour of any day, and in any circumstance.  Proclaim the word to those who are willing listeners and to those who are unwilling as well, because you don’t know who God is calling or who will open their hearts to God through your words.  Open the eyes of those who are in error so that they see their mistakes and can correct them.  Reprimand those who are openly sinning, in hopes that they will turn from their sins and go back to following God.  Encourage the brothers and sisters in their faith, give comfort and support to those in need.  Do all that you do patiently and gently, as a parent instructing a child or a brother helping a younger sibling.  Teach the truth, unaltered, so that those in your care would know the real message of Jesus and the hope that He gives us.”

 

2 Timothy 4:1-2