Category: 2 Timothy (Page 2 of 3)

Delight in the Law of the Lord

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night…
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.”
~Psalm 1

The first psalm asserts that how one responds to Scripture, how a person responds to the revelation of God in Torah, will determine that person’s ultimate destiny. When it comes to the Law of the Lord there are two choices, two paths. Moses gives us two paths in his farewell sermon on the mountain and says, “Choose life.” Jesus gives us two paths in his sermon on the mountain and says, “Choose the straight and narrow.” And the psalmist does a similar thing.

By using both positive and negative examples, the psalm encourages us to adopt the fruitful and satisfying life that’s characterized by complete immersion in God and his Word. So immersed in the Word of God, so focuses on the Law of the Lord, that it shapes and dominates your worldview. This is the way of the righteous. And God watches those who walk in that way. By contrast, the one who does not delight in the Law of the Lord is shaped by the counsel of the wicked. He is formed in the way of sinners. Those who walk in this way will perish.

It’s a choice.

God speaks. God reveals. He calls. God makes his holy character and perfect will known through Torah, and what we do with that word is everything. It’s the difference between growing as a fruitful tree and fading away as useless chaff. It’s the difference between well-watered and well-nourished stability and dry, dusty, windblown impermanence. Two choices: the way of the righteous that God oversees and the way of wickedness that leads to destruction. It’s the wise man and the foolish man building their houses in Matthew 7. The only difference between the two men is attention to and obedience to the teachings of Jesus, hearing the Word of the Lord and putting it into practice.

Our God does not reveal himself to be catalogued and studied; he reveals himself to be followed. Our God does not speak to be heard; he speaks to be obeyed.

You ask your daughter to fold the clean towels and put them away in the cabinet (this is purely a hypothetical situation). You come back in twenty minutes and the towels are still in a wad on the couch and the same daughter is sitting in the same spot watching the same TV, only now she’s eating a Pop Tart. And you say to your daughter, “Did you hear me?!?” By that, you don’t mean, “Did the sound waves caused by the vibrations in my tongue and throat penetrate your ear canals to be carried to your brain where they are deciphered into understandable language?” When you say, “Did you hear me?” you’re actually saying, “Why didn’t you obey me?”

To delight in the Law of the Lord, to meditate on it day and night, is to do it. Hearing is doing. Faith is acting.

The Word of God is powerful. It changes lives. It alters destinies. In 1 Thessalonians, Paul acknowledges the Word of God that “is at work in you.” In 2 Timothy, he claims that Scripture equips a man for every good work. Not doctrinal perfection. Not knowledge about facts and patterns. Paul says it leads to action. Hearing is doing. The righteous one delights in the Law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night not to know more. To become more. We don’t learn or study Scripture as much as we ingest it. We assimilate it. We take it into our lives in such a way that it becomes a part of us and it metabolizes into this fruit: acts of love, cups of cold water, prison and hospital visits, cakes baked, groceries delivered, comfort and encouragement, evangelism and justice.

When Samuel was confronted with God’s voice, he replied, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” James says to not just hear the Word, but to do it.

“I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” ~Psalm 40:8



Life Together

For most of us, if not every single one of us, we live in a “Christian-friendly” place. In most of our towns and cities, there is some kind of a Christian gathering or activity happening somewhere every day and night of the week. There is some kind of Christian work or service being done in the name of Jesus somewhere in our cities every day. There are Christian churches on every corner. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a dozen Christians. The people you work with, your neighbors, your waiter, the lady in front of you at the post office — they’re all Christians. Or, at least, most of them would claim to be Christian. Now, without getting into the specifics of their connections to Christ or their discipleship to Jesus, the truth is that most of us can go for days at a time and never see anybody or talk to anybody who wouldn’t say they’re a Christian.

And I wonder if we take that for granted.

Because, I promise you, the apostle Paul and John and Peter and Luke and the other early disciples of Jesus could never have imagined in their wildest dreams a world in which most people claim to be Christian. That concept of open and public worship and devotion to Jesus and open fellowship with a huge community of believers would have been unthinkable. Our group of 750 that meets together at Central on Sunday mornings and all the things we do together and all the ways we come together would have blown those first century Christians out of the water! Our meetings together and our fellowship with one another is so… matter-of-fact. So ordinary. So expected.

The very first Christians could never relate to what we enjoy on a regular basis. To those great men and women of the faith, the physical presence of other Christians — being in the same room with a bunch of other disciples! — was not normal. It was, instead, an uncommon source of great joy and strength.

Paul’s in prison and he calls Timothy to come to him in the last days of his life. He remembers Timothy’s tears when they departed and he longs to see his beloved son in the faith “that I may be filled with joy” (2 Timothy 1:4). He writes to his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica: “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again” (1 Thessalonians 3:10). The great apostle John, in his second letter writes to his brothers and sisters in Asia: “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 12).

There were times in their lives when these great men of God did not have the physical, visible fellowship with other believers that we enjoy on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. And they longed for it. They treasured it. They cherished it. They looked forward to it and savored it with great delight.

Good or bad, I don’t think we can relate.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about Christian fellowship in his wonderful little book, Life Together. When he wrote this in 1938, he was running an illegal underground seminary in Nazi Germany. This was five years before he was arrested by Hitler’s Gestapo police, seven years before he was executed by special order of Heinrich Himmler:

“What is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us. Therefore, let him who has the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”

Our Christian friendships should be treasured, never assumed. Our time together should be cherished, never avoided. Opportunities to be together should be seized, never scorned.

May we rededicate ourselves from this day forward to living more closely together in Christian community. May we place the proper perspective and value on the time we get to spend together in the holy presence of our loving and saving Father. And may we better understand how our life together not only serves to transform all of us more into the image of Christ, but serves to redeem this broken world in the name and manner of Jesus.



Be Assured of Salvation

The Mavericks played the absolutely best game they possibly could have Saturday night and still lost to the Thunder in OKC. Durant and his boys are going to take it in five games. Last night Derek Holland looked overmatched, Josh Hamilton pulled something in his back, Ron Washington got tossed out of the game on his 60th birthday, and the Rangers lost their first series since last fall. And the Cowboys used their top draft pick on a guy who just set the record for the lowest score on the Wonderlic intelligence exam in NFL draft history. Tough weekend.


Let’s resume our chapter-by-chapter look at Leroy Garrett’s “What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved?” The book is a compilation of suggestions Garrett makes for us if the Church of Christ is to have a redemptive role and an effective ministry in our rapidly changing world. We reach the halfway point of the book today with suggestion number ten:

Have an assurance of our own salvation.

Garrett claims that our members “do not know we are saved; we hope we are.” I know what he’s talking about. I hear it all the time. My own brothers and sisters in Christ talk about their eternal salvation in hesitant, halting, uncertain terms. “I hope I am.” “I pray that I am.” “If God will just give me a tiny back corner in the basement of heaven, I’ll be happy.” “I’m trying as hard as I can.”

The by-product of such uncertainty is a lack of joy. One thing Church of Christ people aren’t, in spite of many noble qualities, is a joyous people. We have little joy because we have little assurance. We don’t talk like people who are assured of their salvation. We don’t sing that way. We don’t pray that way. That is why our singing is unexciting, our prayers dull, and our services generally boring. Take a look at our Sunday morning service at most any of our churches. Is it a funeral? Where is the spontaneity? Where is the joyous excitement of being a Christian? Who would seek solace from a troubled world among folk who go at their religion with a yawn and a sigh?

Garrett says Church of Christ people are scared to live and afraid to die. We have no joy because we’re not really one hundred percent sure we’re good with God. Despite the clear teachings of Holy Scripture, our people have doubts and fears about their standing with God. They’re uncertain. They wonder if they’re doing enough. They wonder if they’re good enough. They wonder if they’ve loved enough or served enough or worked enough. (By the way, the answer to those questions is “No, no, no, no, and no.”)

Garrett’s dead-on analysis is that we really don’t believe in the grace of God. We would never say it, but the reality is that, for the most part, Church of Christ folks actually believe in salvation by works. We’re taught this at an early age. We think and talk this way. We practice this way. It’s been unambiguously modeled for us and by us for decades. Seriously.

We are saved by being baptized in exactly the correct way for exactly the right reasons. We stay saved by taking communion on exactly the correct day — and only on that correct day — in exactly the correct way. We keep ourselves saved and we save others by studying our Bibles and reaching the exact same correct conclusions about all the exact same doctrines. This is what makes us unique. This is what makes us distinctive. This is what sets us apart from all the others. We’ve got it down right. And since we know so much about God’s plan and God’s will, we’d better be about doing it exactly right.

No wonder we’re so uncertain and nervous! Who could possibly measure up to all that? If I’ve misunderstood a part of that doctrine or I’ve misinterpreted part of God’s will or I’ve done something in a worship service that’s not entirely in the proper order, then my salvation must be in jeopardy. I’d better figure things out and get right with God.

We must start believing in the Gospel of the grace of God, the basis of which is that salvation is his free gift to us. There is no work that we can perform to attain it. There is no way for us to buy it. We can’t be good enough to deserve it. There is no power that can wrest it. It is a gift, a free gift, that is ours only because of God’s philanthropy. In short, we must come to see what has been in holy Scripture all along: “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

“[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” ~2 Timothy 1:9

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” ~2 Timothy 1:12

“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” ~Titus 3:5

“To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy!” ~Jude 24

Look, I don’t believe in “once saved, always saved;” but I sure don’t believe either in “once saved, barely saved.” We are saved by God’s grace. We are redeemed by his mercy. It’s a free gift from our Father. And if we can ever all get our brains and our hearts and our souls around that, we’ll be freed from our own hangups to live and praise and worship and serve with great gladness and joy. Finally, we’ll be able to forgive people we haven’t been able to forgive before because we’ll be drawing on God’s goodness instead of our own. Finally, we’ll be able to accept those we’ve never been able to accept before because we’ll be depending on Jesus’ righteousness and not our own. We’ll be able to love every man, woman, and child on this planet in ways we’ve never been able to love before because we’ll be experiencing God’s unconditional love in our lives and not applying our own very conditional love to others.

It’ll be a huge shift for us. Huge. Radical. Dramatic. It’ll change us. It’ll mature us and grow us up. And it will have an eternal impact on those around us who just might see Christ in the Church of Christ for the very first time.



Be Careful What You Ask For

“Be careful what you ask for…”

You’ve heard that before, right? Maybe you’ve even said it before. “Be careful what you ask for…”


“…because you just might get it.”

If my understanding of salvation is correct, God’s Holy Spirit is transforming us, changing us into the image of Christ. “Christ in us” is our hope of glory. We are being transformed “into the image of Christ with ever increasing glory.” Paul calls this “being saved.” It’s a process. It’s a journey. It’s a gradual becoming.

And it involves suffering.

Jesus made it plain: “All men will hate you because of me” (Matthew 10:22).

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18).

Paul knew it, too: “Every one who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

See, we don’t normally think this way. We preach and teach, we believe and confess that if the whole world acted more like Jesus everybody would love everybody. If we thought and behaved more like our Lord, people would love us and be attracted to us. The Scriptural truth and the ultimate reality is that if we become more like Jesus, people will actually hate us. It’s unavoidable. If you want a safe, untroubled, comfortable life free from danger, then stay away from Jesus! The danger and risk and exposure to suffering increases in proportion to the depth of our relationship with the Christ.

Maybe this is why we sit back and settle for a casual relationship with Christ and just routine religion in the church. It’s safe at most churches. And, the way most of us do it, it’s actually pretty popular to be a Christian and go to church. As long as we’re pursuing the same goals and values and uphold the same ideals as everybody else in the world, even if we put a Christian label on it, the world’s cool with us. As long as our Christianity looks like the American Dream, we’re not going to have many problems.

But Jesus says, “Everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

Our Teacher was mocked and beaten and ridiculed and persecuted and betrayed and murdered. He suffered and sacrificed and bled and died. Do we really want to be like him?

“It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him but also to suffer for him” (Philippians 1:29).

Peter says we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens. Paul says we should consider it a joy. Scripture upholds that suffering is a gift. Christ gives us a gift — suffering. It’s a blessing. It’s a grace. It’s transformational. It’s life; eternal life. It’s discipleship; being like Jesus. Sanctification; being changed. Salvation; being saved.

Make me a servant; Lord, make me like you.

Be careful what you ask for.



This Is Not God’s Way

Winston Churchill told a story about a little boy who was playing on a pier and tumbled over into the water. The boy couldn’t swim and began to cry out for help. A soldier working at a nearby dock heard the desperate screams and dove into the sea. This brave young man swam out to the child, put him on his back, and brought him safely back to shore and into the loving and nurturing arms of the cheering crowd. The next day, the little boy’s mother came back to the docks looking for the courageous soldier. When the pier workers pointed her toward her child’s rescuer, she walked right up to him and asked, “Young man, are you the one who saved my little boy?”

The soldier stood up. His chest began to swell and a smile broke out on his face as he answered her, “Yes, ma’am, I am.”

The woman leaned in and looked right into his eyes, “Where’s his cap?!?”

We preachers and ministers and elders and other church staff believe we are called by God. We believe we are charged by God to do the things we do in the name of his Son. It’s a high calling. It’s a noble vocation. It’s not a nine-to-five gig. It’s an all-consuming passion that compels us to preach and teach and pray and serve.

So when we answer that call from our Lord and move into the ministry, we all believe we’re entering a holy, God-sanctified realm. But the reality for most of us is that we’ve entered a system, a man-created and human-perpetuated system that grinds up and spits out preachers and elders. Broken preachers and elders are all around us. A lot of them are still working. A lot of them are not. Burned out. Trashed. Used. Abused. Walked all over. Stomped on. Chewed up and spit out like the gunk on the floor of a major league dugout.

The expectations we place on preachers and elders, the ways we treat them, the things we say to them and about them — behind their backs and even to their faces! — the things we demand of them, the attitudes of ownership and entitlement that guide our interactions with them, none of that is from God. We’ve been a part of this sick system for so long, we think it’s God’s way. But it’s not. It’s the human way. It’s the world’s way. The way we generally treat preachers and elders is not God’s way.

The reason wives and families of ministers and elders resent the church, the reason so many of our best and strongest and most faithful men refuse to serve when the church calls, the reason so few of our most gifted young people are interested in the call to preach and minister is that they all know they’re not entering into a holy partnership with God and his people as much as they’re entering into a life-sucking, soul-robbing, energy-draining system.

It’s not supposed to be this way. It doesn’t have to be this way.

It needs to change. We can do better. And we should.

The call from our God is for us to live in mutually-encouraging relationships in Christ. We are to “fan into flame” the gifts from God we see in our preachers and elders, not explode all over them with soaking wet, white fire extinguisher foam.

We are all holy people, set apart by our God to serve his holy purposes. Our interactions with one another should also be holy. They should encourage and inspire, not discourage and depress. We should express gratitude, not attitude. Instead of arguing and complaining and criticizing, our words and actions toward those who serve us should be motivated by the Spirit who lives inside us, the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. And no system.



Community Grace

 The grace of Christian Community

I learned a lot in Kharkov, Ukraine. I learned that I can survive on Diet Coke when there’s no Diet Dr Pepper. I learned that I am the richest man most of the people I met will ever know in their lives. I learned that chicken-flavored potato chips are nasty, that the potholes out here on Cardinal Lane are nothing, and that no matter how many people are watching and cheering, soccer is still really boring. But this is perhaps the greatest lesson learned: We should never take for granted the great blessing we enjoy to be disciples of Jesus living with and among other disciples of Jesus.

David & Olivia Nelson at Legacy; this picture was taken about two months before they left for KharkovMost Christians outside America know nothing first-hand about that experience. They live in isolation with family members who do not follow our Christ or in communities where the Son of God is not recognized, or worse, where followers of Jesus are persecuted for their beliefs and practices.

The physical presence of other Christians is a source of great joy and strength to a believer.

The imprisoned apostle Paul calls Timothy to come to him in the last days of his life. He remembers Timothy’s tears when they departed and longs to see his beloved son in the faith “that I may be filled with joy.” Remembering the saints in Thessalonica, Paul writes, “night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again.” John knows his joy will not be full until he can come to his own people and speak face to face with them instead of writing to them with ink “so that our joy may be complete.” Christian Community - a gracious gift from God

At times in their lives these great men of God did not have the fellowship with other believers that we enjoy daily, sometimes hourly. They longed for it. They relished it. They looked forward to it. And they savored it with great delight. Fellowship was everything. It’s what got them through.

We don’t value it nearly as much in this country because we can have it anytime we want. It’s always available to us. We don’t understand the importance of this fellowship with other followers. If we did, we’d have just as many people in our buildings on Wednesday evenings as we do on Sunday mornings. That’s the way it is in Kharkov. It’s unthinkable over there to miss a worship assembly. Or a birthday party in the park. Or a small group meeting. Or a prayer gathering. David and Olivia can announce a special meeting or assembly the day before it happens and every member of their core Christian community will be there. They don’t dare miss it. They need it.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty. I want us all to understand the value of the gifts of fellowship in our Christian communities. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this about Christian fellowship in his classic work on the community of faith, Life Together:

“What is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift everyday. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken away from us. Therefore, let him who has the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”

We live together in and through Christ Jesus. The fellowship we share together is only in and through our Lord and Savior. Christian friendships should be treasured, never assumed. Time together should be cherished, never avoided. Opportunities to be together should be seized, never scorned.


Olivia has updated the Nelsons’ blog with a ton of pictures from our trip and lots of very, very nice things to say about us and Legacy and the work God is doing in Kharkov. Click here to read their latest post. TCU

Go Frogs!


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