In Step. In Unity. In Boldness.

Father of lights, Lord of Creation, Author of my life, Sovereign over me,
Please grant us the strength today to stand in service of You. Purify us from all the filth that clings to this sin-drenched, mortal life. By the blood of Jesus, poured out over us, cleanse us from human brokenness & chart a pathway through the wilderness of our hearts that they might become springs of life by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us. Remember our sins no more, as You have promised, and grant us confidence in Christ, united together, to step boldly into the day You have created and lay at our feet. We pray this in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

Hebrews 10:11-25
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Paul reminds Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7) that God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity, but a spirit of power through Jesus Christ. There is boldness that should inherently come from being made pure by the blood of Christ, and by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. There is a confidence (not an arrogance) that should come from knowing whose we are and what it is that we are up against. There is  a strength of character that comes from walking with Jesus, as He works His will in us day after day after day that should exhibit that handiwork and the Master Craftsman behind it.

If Jesus grants us the confidence to enter the holy places by His blood, how much more so those places where He already holds victory over the enemy? Why should we cower in fear? Why should we worry? If we have been washed with pure water, why would we not walk in that newness of life, throwing off the faithlessness that used to bind us, but that binds us no more?

This is one of the reasons why the author of Hebrews is encouraging us to continue gathering together. This is just one reason why it is good that we look other Christians in the eye, shake their hands and give them hugs. We need to be in the presence of other people who have seen victory at work in their own lives. We need to see people whose faces have been lifted up to heaven, whose eyes have looked upon the cross and we need to stand in boldness with them as we unite in Christ, our Great High Priest, and stand in bold assurance against the schemes of the enemy.

Standing alone is wrong & dangerous. God did not design us or example to us this stand-alone mentality. Instead, we are gathered together with our people to receive this encouragement: God has the victory. He is in charge. He loves us dearly. He has paid the price. He will bring change about in us. He will see change happen in the lives of others through the work He is doing in us today. We are meant to be together, walking in the rhythms of grace together. Praise God for that.

Father of lights, Lord of Creation, Author of my life, Sovereign over me,
Please grant us the strength today to stand in service of You. Purify us from all the filth that clings to this sin-drenched, mortal life. By the blood of Jesus, poured out over us, cleanse us from human brokenness & chart a pathway through the wilderness of our hearts that they might become springs of life by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us. Remember our sins no more, as You have promised, and grant us confidence in Christ, united together, to step boldly into the day You have created and lay at our feet. We pray this in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

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Acts 17:10-15 // Finding Answers

“10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas off to Berea. On arrival, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 The people here were more open- minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Consequently, many of them believed, including a number of the prominent Greek women as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica found out that God’s message had been proclaimed by Paul at Berea, they came there too, agitating and disturbing the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul away to go to the sea, but Silas and Timothy stayed on there. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible, they departed.”

Acts 17:10-15

How can I know God’s heart? How can I understand Him better? How can I get better at listening to the Holy Spirit? How can I know God’s will for my life? How can I make better decisions? How can I be stronger in my faith? How can I do a better job at answering questions about my faith? How can I be more confident in sharing my faith? How do I even know what to share and when? How do I do a better job of standing firm in tough times? How do I find comfort when it seem like I’m on my own? How do I do a better job encouraging people? How do I teach my children what’s right? How do I stand as a Christian in a culture that is so different from what I believe? 

There are thousands of other questions along these lines, and for the most part, they have one answer: 

Seek God through His Word.
There is nothing more to say. It is, in fact, that simple. “Consequently, many of them believed…”

Read the Bible. Do it daily. Don’t glance over it. Spend dedicated time in it. Ask God to guide your heart with His Holy Spirit and teach you. Be a ‘good Berean’ and examine the Word to find His answers as you GoLove others. 

Acts 16:1-5 // The Emphasis on Freedom

“1 Then he went on to Derbe and Lystra, where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman, but his father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to go with him, so he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled through the towns, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for them to observe. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily.”

Acts 16:1-5

This is a wonderfully uncomplicated process that we find Paul engaged in as he spreads the Gospel. Take these first few verses of chapter 16. The church in Lystra recommended Timothy for deeper discipling, and so Paul does. There was no need to hold an interview, a vote, to have him run through a process or jump through hoops. Timothy simply stood out as one who was taking his walk with Christ seriously, and was a good example to everyone else. In this, he stood out and because he was willing to do what was needed for the sake of the Gospel, he would become not simply an elder in his town, but a travelling missionary and evertually a permenant minister elsewhere. There was freedom and simplicityin the process. 

Again, Paul is carrying out the desires of the council of Jerusalem and sharing their desicion with the Gentile believers. He is delivering freedom, not legalism. He is delivering joy and hope, not hardship or a stack of rules. He is communicating a new life, a better life, that they would get to take part in apart from their old life. When you present the Gospel, that is what you are bringing. Freedom comes with the Good News, not a burden. Paul did a wonderful job of communicating truth, accountability and freedom all at the same time, and God used him well for it. He understood, personally, what it meant to be tied down with the burdens of legalism. He lived that life, he walked that path personally, and he knew its pains well. 

As we GoLove others in Jesus’ Name, we need to make sure that we are delivering the good news and freedom in Christ. We need to do the same for ourselves. There is joy in the Gospel, not a secondary burden. There is adventure and freedom, and we need to communicate that clearly to others and ourselves. It takes a prayerful effort, and it should. 

2 Timothy 4 // Being poured out

“1 I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead,and because of His appearing and His kingdom: Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. 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. But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.”
2 Timothy 4:1-8

These words from Paul are powerful and relevant still today:
“Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.” The Message comes first, don’t worry about your reputation, don’t worry about the opinion of others. Don’t be distracted by opposition. Don’t take to heart the culture around you. Simply, plainly, preach the message. Be faithful to the truth above all else. And this isn’t just for ministers. This is for all of us. The world wants to hear that message that confirms that what it is already doing is okay. They want their ears tickled, their ego stroked and their sins to be labeled as virtues. And what Paul tells to Timothy here is to expect that type of reception. So, in light of that, we are to be serious about getting the Lord’s Message out, fulfilling that work of the Great Commission.

Paul starts off with a command “I solemnly charge you…proclaim the message” because that is the command He was given. It translates through the generations. Jesus Commissioned His disciples, those disciples passed along that commission to everyone they discipled and so on and so on. It isn’t reserved for any one person, or any one group. IT belongs to all of us. Paul was pouring out his life as a drink offering, knowing that his life was just about over, his ministry almost completed, and so Timothy would need to take his place and help lead the charge for the Gospel. Timothy likely did the same thing, tradition holds that he died after being beaten to death with clubs in Ephesus, in an attempt to draw men’s hearts away from idol worship.

The heart that carries this message must be ready to encounter hardship. The message comes above all else, and we must all look to pour out our lives like a drink offering. The life that is invested in this world will only make an impact in this life. The life that is concerned about wealth or popularity or ‘just getting by’ rather than walking as Jesus walked, will receive its due reward, emptiness, disappointment and condemnation. And so Paul desires to keep Timothy’s eyes on the prize, not to count his own suffering as a deterrent, but to see it as that good offering, a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing. Paul reminds Timothy that have has been promised a crown of righteousness, as are all who have ‘loved His appearing.’

Itching ears cannot dictate what we say or what we do. We keep the main thing the main thing. We proclaim the truth, no matter what, in season and out of season, all believers, everywhere. Jesus will be the One who judges the living and dead, it is simply our task to share the Good News He has given us. Sound doctrine defines us, sculpts our understanding and shapes our worldview. It is our imperative that ranks above all else. Jesus Christ, the Righteous Judge, guides our work as we GoLove others through the telling and retelling of His great act of grace for us on the cross. We may falter and fall from time to time, but that truth remains, He was poured out for us, and as His disciples, we must do likewise for others in His Name.

2 Timothy 3 // Difficult times in the last days

“1 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!

For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men who are corrupt in mind, worthless in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress, for their lack of understanding will be clear to all, as theirs was also.”
2 Timothy 3:1-9

It is passages like this that always leave me doing a gut-check, looking at myself, my motivations, to make sure that I am not falling prey to these ideals or practices.  ‘Having the -form- of godliness, but denying its power.’ Looking good on the outside, maybe verbally agreeing to thoughts, ideas, practices and beliefs, but still more concerned with self than the truth, people living this way have chosen to live more with the flesh in mind than the things of God, and I never want to be guilty of such things. But reading through this, I am reminded that the heart that is concerned for guilt, that examines itself, is rarely consumed by the thing that concerns it, because that individual is staying on guard. That being said, I am not perfect, I still struggle with my flesh just as much as any other Christian would, but I am convicted that I, along with all followers in Christ, have been a better way, and the strength to live it out, in Him. This is grace.

It would be arrogance to say that I am without struggle, that I am somehow exempt from the difficulties that come from living in Christ in a corrupted world. It would be negligent of me to think that I am not from time to time guilty of those sins listed in verses 2-4. I have been unloving, ungrateful and lacked self-control. I am guilty of those things, but I also know that I do not let those attitudes and behaviors rule my life, guiding me day-by-day. This would be what we find in verse 8, those who resist the truth, corrupt in mind and worthless when it comes to faith. Instead, I come to Christ, seeking forgiveness, repenting, yet again, for my failures. I don’t brag on myself in this, I can only give credit to Jesus who allows me the strength to face these sins in myself, and to turn away with Him toward holiness. Again, this is grace at work in us.

But our concern here in 2 Timothy 3 is not for those who walk faithfully, slipping from time to time, but for those who live as a goat in sheep’s clothing. Not a wolf, mind you, not always, but often a goat. Having that appearance of holiness, but not actually being holy, looking like they may belong, but consuming everything in sight, concerned more for self than Shepherd.

It is this flock that concerns me, because it is so easy to be a part of it. To mix and match your faith, rationalizing sin and salvation together, fooling themselves, but not God. Trying to accommodate Christianity, to custom-fit the truth, into a secular worldview. These people have the form of godliness, but they deny its power. They want to look holy, sound holy, appearing smart, knowledgable, intelligent, but they lack the substance of faith. It is all words and show, but their hearts remain unchanged. Consumed by the world, and concerned what men will think of them, they bend and warp what is right into a ‘faith’ of their choosing.

Paul is warning Timothy to keep his distance form these people, and rightly so, because twisted logic can sometimes be enticing. The most dangerous lies are those that have been camouflaged with the truth. These goats in sheep’s clothing have convincing arguments because they had to first persuade themselves, an they have ownership of the lies that now bind their hearts. Those who would sin openly, they are easy to pick out. They have no appearance of a sheep. But those who have the form of godliness, they seem safe, they seem like they might be reliable, but they are just as corrupt as the unbeliever. In verse 8, Paul compares them to the two Egyptian magicians that opposed Moses. There is a substance of something spiritual within them, but it’s roots are not in holiness, or the Father.

“Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”” 1 Corinthians 15:33

“Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap,” Galatians 6:7

Be aware of your own motivations as you do the good work of the Gospel. Our example is to be from Christ, not from self, as we GoLove in His Name. Daily repentance and an open honesty with God in prayer and a weighing of ideas against Scripture will keep us honest if we will humbly, again, honestly come and seek His will rather than our own. We want to reach out to those who are lost, but we cannot sacrifice or compromise when it comes to the truth as it is written in His Word and seen in the life of Christ Himself.

2 Timothy 2 // Commanded to be strong

“1 You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

Keep your attention on Jesus Christ as risen from the dead and descended from David. This is according to my gospel.”

14 Remind them of these things, charging them before God not to fight about words; this is in no way profitable and leads to the ruin of the hearers. 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.”

22 Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels. 24 The Lord’s slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, 25 instructing his opponents with gentleness.”
2 Timothy 2:1-3, 8, 14-15, 22-25a HCSB

Throughout this chapter, Paul gives Timothy several commands, points to remain strong in as he serves as a minister, teaching others about Christ. Where our culture would like to see commands like this stand rather as a suggestion, what we find instead is that living in this way is non-negotiable as we follow after Jesus Christ. It’s not just for ministers to be strong in grace, but all who claim Christ as King. Teaching others to be faithful isn’t just the work of a few, but it remains true that all of us who walk as Jesus walk would do the same thing. And certainly, keeping out attention on Christ as Messiah is something we must each do every single day.

These distinctives that mark us as belonging to Jesus, these sufferings we share in with him. The death we die to self, carrying our cross…all these things identify us with Him, and they are not quickly discarded or pushed aside in order to be better liked by the world around us. The world doesn’t want passionate Christians, because we do stand firm. The world doesn’t want disciplined, faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, because our message of grace also contains a need to repent and repentance leads from conviction and conviction means confrontation with our own hearts, lives and decisions.

This isn’t a battle fought in the nit-picky details, but in wide swaths of truth from the foundation of our minds and hearts, translating all the way up through every aspect of our lives. The details change as the foundation shifts, and the diligent heart will turn over every stone in that foundation, measuring it against Christ to make sure that it is properly laid. This is conviction that comes from acknowledging the truth. Timothy, as a young minister, needs to understand these things, standing firm in them in grace, just as Paul said, because even though we do not compromise, we do not waiver, we must still speak the truth in love and from conviction at the same time. We are not called to be angry and spiteful in our presentation, almost mocking them as we speak the truth. No, we share in gentleness and respect, bringing people to the Cornerstone of all things, that is Christ Jesus. This is our call to GoLove. We stand firm on the truth of the Gospel message, but we do so in grace.

Fleeing from those haphazard, mindless, youthful passions only embeds us more deeply in the strong, unmoving, constant will of the Father, by the strength found in the Word and administered by the Holy Spirit. God helping us, we can do this if we are willing to be used by Him, examined by Him and set on the path of truth by Him. It is never taken lightly, but rather gladly and with much conviction. This sincerity and passion makes for a beautiful combination, and it honors God.

2 Timothy 1 // The grace of a clear conscience

I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.”
2 Timothy 1:3

Paul begins this letter to Timothy in a way that is meant to encourage, build up and strengthen. Paul is at the end of his life, he is under home incarceration in Rome awaiting trial, and Timothy, his spiritual son, is likely struggling with the state of affairs in Paul’s life. Reading through the next few verses, we are reminded that Timothy’s own biological father has has nothing to do with his spiritual upbringing. Paul stands in that role, alongside his faithful mother and grandmother, as those who invested in his life in the Name of Christ. This is no casual relationship. Paul stands as a mentor, a guide in the things of Christ, for Timothy in life and in his role as a minister of the gospel. It is no wonder that Timothy is in need of encouragement. 

And so Paul begins this letter letting him know that His service to God has been done and is still being done with a clear conscience. For Timothy, who is likely asking questions in his heart about why Paul is suffering as he awaits his trial before Nero Caesar (not a bright prospect) and whether or not Paul has slipped up somehow to ‘deserve’ this, or if this is some form of punishment for him, Paul reminds him that his suffering is being completed in faithfulness, just as his ministry & mission was completed in that same faithfulness. Nothing but location and circumstance has changed for Paul. And even in his suffering, Paul is being given influence in the house of Caesar, and lives are being changed even there. (Philippians 4:22 “All the saints greet you, but especially those from Caesar’s household.”) So, it is because of his continued faithfulness, that Paul is able to say that he serves with a clear conscience. 

A clear conscience is no small thing. Countless hours have been spent by mankind fretting over things they have done and said to others. Lies told, wealth stolen, murders, envies and so much more have plagued our consciences ever since the fall in the garden. The burden of sin and guilt weighs heavy on us, even if we do not recognize the need for a Savior, people spend sleepless nights fretting over the value of their lives and over harsh words spoken in poor timing. Wondering if what we have done amounts to anything, if we are making a difference, thoughts centered around angry words spoken at the end of alive, and the inability to take them back. A clear conscience is a commodity that is valuable beyond measuring. 

And, so again, Paul reminds Timothy that his is clear and clean, and this can only come through the grace of Christ at work in Him, and in his own faithfulness to the call of carrying his cross daily for Him in ministry and life. Bad circumstances are often the result of poor choices, but not always. Paul finds himself precisely where God wanted him to be. People said several times, ‘He could have been released if only he hadn’t appealed to Caesar.’ but in the presence of Caesar is precisely where Paul needed to be. There is no fault or error that led him there. The influence that He is having for the sake of Christ in the heart of the Roman Empire is no mistake. Insomuch as Paul continues to trust and obey, his conscience will remain clear, and his service to the Lord will continue to be valuable, no mater what the external circumstances may be. 

And so, to encourage Timothy, Paul speaks to him in this, as a father to a son: 

Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy, clearly recalling your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois, then in your mother Eunice, and that I am convinced is in you also.

Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. So don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, or of me His prisoner. Instead, share in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God.

He has saved us and called us
with a holy calling,
not according to our works,
but according to His own purpose and grace,
which was given to us in Christ Jesus
before time began.
10 This has now been made evident
through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus,
who has abolished death
and has brought life and immortality to light
through the gospel.

11 For this gospel I was appointed a herald, apostle, and teacher, 12 and that is why I suffer these things. But I am not ashamed, because I know the One I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to guard what has been entrusted to me until that day. 13 Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard, through the Holy Spirit who lives in us, that good thing entrusted to you.”

This is also our encouragement to faithfulness today as we GoLove others in the name of Christ through service and the Gospel message that has likewise been entrusted to us. Our clear conscience, the same as Paul’s, comes only through trusting in the grace of Christ, being joined with Him in baptism, and daily repenting, dying to self and letting Him lead as our Lord, Savior and Master.