October 4 – October 10, 2016

WORD

8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, 9for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal.  But the word of God is not chained.  10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.  11The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; 13if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.  14Remind them of this, and warn them before God that they are to avoid wrangling over words, which does no good but only ruins those who are listening.  15Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:8-15

Reading Scripture to Know:

  • What is happening/being said? (Observation)
  • Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
  • What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
  • What does it mean? (Understanding)
  • What does it mean for us? (Application)

Reading Scripture to Grow:

  • What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
  • Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
  • How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
  • How does this Scripture reveal God?
  • How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
  • What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?

Reflection: If we have died with him, we will also live with him.

This statement is foundational to our faith.  Following Christ means going everywhere Christ went and doing what Christ does.  This, unavoidably, leads us to a cross on which we must die to our authority, self, and agenda.  We may want the life of Christ, but so seldom do we actively pursue the death of Christ to attain that life.  However, resurrection never happens without there first being a death.  As Paul wrote elsewhere to the Christians at Philippi, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

This failure to embrace the death into which Christ calls us to follow him has resulted in a desensitization to the realities of the cross.  The cross has become an ornament more so than a call to give ourselves over to God wholly.  We must reclaim the cross in all of its power and authority.  Additionally, we must reclaim the demands and responsibilities of being a people of the cross.

Gaze at the simple cross in the image above.  The light of the heavens shines down upon it, revealing nothing fancy or ornamental.  It is but two pieces of rough wood joined together inviting us to be embraced by the difficult mission of Christ Jesus.  Fix your eyes on the cross and ask in prayer, “How might I take that cross upon myself today and how might my life be marked by the cross?”  Listen for the simple answers as you gaze upon this simple cross.  The way to the cross is not flashy or even complex, but is often paved with the sacrificial acts of mundane faithfulness.

Daily Readings: 

  • Tuesday, October 4 – Romans 6
  • Wednesday, October 5 – Romans 7
  • Thursday, October 6 – Romans 8
  • Friday, October 7 – Romans 9
  • Saturday, October 8 – Romans 10
  • Sunday, October 9 – Romans 11
  • Monday, October 10 –  Romans 12

 

 SPIRIT

Prayer Focus: If we endure, we will also reign with him.

All of us have those things that we simply must endure.  We all have our thorn in the flesh, so to speak (2 Corinthians 12).  We also must endure those world situations and realities that do not reflect God’s will and ways.  For instance, my wise wife (the pastor’s pastor!) has found the great comfort of knowing that God responds to the evil, injustice, and destructive tragedies of the world with the powerful words, “I did not intend for this.”  There are many personal and societal struggles which we must endure in life.  Pray that God will respond to those realities, not by removing the thorns, but by preparing us to receive the grace that gives us the strength to endure.  Ask God not necessarily to destroy the evil, but to mercifully and patiently wait upon us in our foolishness as the Holy Spirit is poured upon us for our transformation.  Trust that God will overcome evil with God’s goodness – both in us and in the world.

Let us also in our prayers remember the people of Haiti this week and all those in the path of Hurricane Matthew.  May God, even now, prepare the hearts and minds of the people to receive his compassion, care, and grace.  Even in the midst of such destructive forces of nature may God’s life and peace reign.  In Christ’s name, amen.

Meditation Focus: Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him.

When we go to a ballgame, we make sure that we wear our team colors, a hat, a jersey, and many other pieces of fan gear.  When we go hunting in the woods, we wear camouflage.  When we go to a fancy dinner or a show, we wear our nicest dresses and jackets.  When we attend an important business meeting, we pull our best tie or scarf out of the closet.  We know how to present ourselves in so many social situations, but do we know how to present ourselves before God?  Imagine that you are preparing to see God face to face in order to be, as Paul writes, approved by God.  First of all, what does this mean?  What will be required of you?  Now imagine that you are standing at the closet of your soul.  Instead of clothing, this closet holds those attributes and attitudes of your personality, character, heart, and spirit.  What will you take from the closet in order to “clothe” yourself in the proper attire for presenting yourself to God?  Picture yourself taking each “item” out of the closet and intentionally and mindfully wrap yourself in these aspects of godly character.  Now present yourself to God.  What is God’s reaction?  Do you find approval?  How might you continue to wear these garments of grace and glory as you, still remaining in God’s presence, move out into the world today?

Journaling Focus: If we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 

What do you think of this difficult passage?  It is not how we would typically like to think of Christ.  However, it does mirror the very words of Jesus that we find in Matthew 7:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’  Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

A turning point in my faith journey came while writing a paper early in seminary in which I was tempted to claim that Jesus was merely a good teacher and not God’s Son.  The “logic” of the paper was heading in that direction and I knew that I either had to take the paper to its “logical” conclusion and deny Christ or affirm Christ and rewrite the paper under the guidance of the “foolishness of God” (1 Corinthians 1:25).  It wasn’t just the paper that was heading in that direction, though.  After several painful experiences in the church and my own waning personal, active devotion to Christ, my life was heading in the direction of denying Christ.  Thanks be to God that I was not able to write that sentence; it was a moment in which the Holy Spirit awakened me anew to the love and truth of Jesus Christ.  I rewrote the paper from the beginning, affirmed Christ, and my life was changed.

Have you ever been tempted to deny Christ?  If so, when?  What were the circumstances?  What kept you from denying Christ or what brought you back to Christ after that moment of denial?  Perhaps you have never experienced such denial.  If so, in what ways have you actively affirmed Christ in your life?  What has kept your faith so strong?  As you write about these experiences of faith, ask God to strengthen your connection to the truth and love of Christ – mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.  Christ Jesus is faithful and will never deny one who is truly seeking after him.

Breath Prayer: Father, give us faith that we might live by it.

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