I photographed a three day conference last year with the nations wealthiest entrepreneurs. The text in my daily Bible reading for the last day I was there was in the opening of 2 Timothy 3 and could not have been more perfect. It was as if it were written today. While many of these people are after innovation, I found myself wondering how the billions in wealth in the room has affected these people. I was talking to a friend who said they wonder if Warren Buffet is a Christian. Just because people give so much of their wealth away, in his case 90% of all his income goes to charity, does not mean they must be Christian. I remember my pastor commenting on the tremendous hole we have in our lives before we find Christ and he attributed it to the likes of babies who are constantly stuffing anything they can get their hands on into their mouths. We desire God so we stuff whatever we can into that God-shaped hole, even doing good. To do good for others is at the heart of our inner desire for God. It is the only reason people are able to do selfless acts even outside the grace of God. I pray for all these “100 most intriguing entrepreneurs”. I pray that they would find God in their journey and really begin to do some serious damage in the Name of Christ.
Godlessness in the Last Days
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
(2 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV)
I get it. I really do. I understand the uplifting power of wanting so badly to read a verse on it’s own to make me feel better. I get the idea of a pastor using a verse in his teaching to encourage and bolster up his congregation. However, I don’t get why plucking one verse out of context is OK in any way at all. It does not glorify God, it only glorifies self. Yesterday I wrote about several verses that are taken out of context an used for selfish gain or selfish pats on the back. Today in my daily study I came across yet another verse used by a pastor who has taken this verse way out of context. “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7, ESV) He used it in the sense of when you feel powerless to overcome a situation or to keep going when times get hard and more specifically how to take control of your weight and what you eat and how you exercise. This pastor, as many do, is using this verse to tell us to have courage, have faith, and be bold in striving toward creating better habits. It is basically self-help while using God’s Word to support his views. This broke my heart when I read his devotional. If you read 2 Timothy, Paul was writing to Timothy and was encouraging to remember when the Holy Spirit entered him and the power that was behind it. To not have a spirit of fear in regard to preaching the true gospel. Paul wanted Timothy to not give up on spreading the Word. He was not encouraging him to be a better person or to be bold in things such as being healthy, he was encouraging him to SPREAD THE WORD OF GOD. God DID give us a Spirit of power and love and self-control in order to spread the word. So, that begs the question… Are you afraid or timid when it comes to sharing the gospel with others? Do you have self control in being purposeful about spreading the Word? Are you intentional and bold? Do you allow the Holy Spirit to work in you powerfully and loving when you talk to others about Jesus? Read the verse again, in fact, read the first part of 2 Timothy. Don’t let me tell you, let God’s Word speak for itself.
One thing that has upset me to no end is the way in which pastors and most people take the Bible and use verses to support their theology rather than allowing the Bible to stand on it’s own. Did you know that most of the verses you hear thrown around are taken way out of context? Like “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) so let’s just add “In Jesus’ name” to the end of every prayer. Asking in his name means in his WILL. Do you think the things you are asking for are in his will? Who are you to presume you know his will. HE IS GOD! Or how about the prosperity gospel of “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV) The Greek translation means life upon life or eternal life, not that you are going to have great things here on THIS earth. These are all mistreated, misunderstood verses. The one that is currently on my mind is “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, ESV) This is always fully taken out of context. Read Philippians 4. Paul was in prison, wrongly accused, and beaten to almost death, but he was still content. He was content in ALL things, when he was in good times and in bad, no matter what. This is what that verse means. In context, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (to take another translation) really means I can be CONTENT in all things no matter what situation I am in. It is not a call to “go for it” or “work tirelessly until you obtain your goal” or that Christ is going to give you strength in every area of your life. This is NOT what Paul is saying. One of my favorite quotes from my pastor, Pastor Mike Fabarez is “The best way to guard against heresy is to read the Bible thoroughly and often.”
God tests the quality of our faith; never to submarine our faith but to prove and validate that our faith is real. – Pastor Scott Ardavanis
“Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God–
Naught else is worth believing.
Though all my heart should feel condemned
For want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart
Whose Word cannot be broken.
I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word
Till soul and body sever,
For, though all things shall pass away,
HIS WORD SHALL STAND FOREVER!”
― Martin Luther
For people who prefer to think of themselves as intelligent, competent, and self-reliant (which is just about all of us), the following words of Jesus likely come as a shock: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mk.10:15). No one likes to be considered childish, and yet there it is, a statement of absolute disqualification from even becoming a Christian unless we share similarity to a child. Of course, there are many aspects of childishness the Bible calls us to renounce (e.g. 1Cor.14:20). Yet, when it comes to “entering the kingdom” there has to be that kid-like dependence, trust, and submission. This insight may help us understand the struggles we face when we are attempting to persuade our accomplished, self-made and self-assured friends to put their trust in Christ. It may even help us rethink our own testimony, if our “conversion story” sounds more like a season of “figuring it all out” or “advancing our lives to the next level” instead of, as Paul put it, counting whatever we had gained as loss (Phil.3:4-9). A sense of helplessness and utter need for salvation is at the heart of what it means to truly repent and put our faith in Christ. As humbling as that may feel, Jesus was clear that it is a necessary prerequisite for joining God’s people in the kingdom.
— Pastor Mike
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world. He loved the world. He loved you, he loved me! Think about that for longer than just a passing moment. Yes, he loves me. How did he love me?
I have a son. He is 6. As a parent I am confident that I would do most anything for that child. I love him unconditionally. He is in my care. How could I even fathom putting him purposefully in harms way? That is exactly what God the Father did. He loved me so much that he personally came down to earth and went through a brutal, humiliating, excruciating death. For me! For you! He did not have to do that at all. We should all perish. But in his perfect love, his crushing love, he chose us over his own comfort. That kind of love can only be described as a crushing kind of love. Why crushing? It is the only word I can think of that even comes slightly close to what that kind of love actually means. Think about it. No really… THINK about it.
When you think long and hard about the sacrifice he made it will crush your heart. When you really ponder who he is and what he did you will instantly slam your body and face firmly on the floor laying prostrate in thanksgiving and worship. That is what I mean by crushing. There is no other way I can describe it. It crushes who we are in light of who he is. It crushes our motives and selfishness and brings forth a desire after his will. It crushes everything we once thought was important and demands our full and utter devotion to the One True God.
Believing in the Son is the first step towards fully accepting that love of grace and mercy. Fully understanding that love is the beginning of a life in which is no longer our own. It is a life that we gratefully and willfully hand over to God as his servant. “Use me, use me!” should be our daily cry. “Shake me out, clean out my sin, make me a tool worthy to be used!” Our deepest desire, that stems from that crushing love, should be that of servanthood. We should long to hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Imagine getting to the beema seat of God and hearing him say “Well, you made it, but really by the skin of your teeth.” You will suffer loss. I don’t know about you, but I am a people pleaser. I like it when I do a job well done. I like being praised for the things I do right. God instilled in us that desire. He wants us to please him like we please others. He wants us to desire after his heart. What are you going to do about it? No really, what are you going to do about it?