I love watching the summer Olympics. The winter Olympics are fun to watch too but I much prefer the summer games over the winter games (perhaps a bit ironic since I live in Minnesota). I get caught up in the wonderful drama that plays out in this competitive theater. The fight and the determination of the athletes is inspiring to watch. Some magical moments are immortalized, like this one and this one. 10,500 athletes from 206 countries will participate in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this August.
I came across a quote from Ravi Zacharias in my recent studies,
Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ (HT: Justin Taylor).
Zacharias’ insight follows a quote from Malcom Muggeridge who observed that nations and rulers are fleeting, and with them any promises of hope they offered. You may wonder what the connection is between Rio 2016 and this citation. Rio de Janeiro is the location of Christ the Redeemer statue. It was completed in 1931. It is an immense statue: 98 feet tall and the arms span 92 feet. It overlooks the city of Rio from a height of 2,300 feet. Its magnitude has led to its inclusion as one of the new seven wonders of the world. It is an imposing image when seen from below. It depicts Christ with open arms who is at one and the same time both sovereign Lord and inviting Savior. It is a reminder of what Zacharias observed. The world will see during the Rio 2016 Olympic games that indeed, “there stands the gigantic figure of one person in whom alone mankind might still have hope.”
My devotional ruminations are just that–devotional thoughts that come from my personal time in Scripture. These ruminations include basic observations and questions (some of which will remain unanswered). Today, I want to make a handful of basic observations from 1 Timothy 1:3-7. Incidentally, my prayer to the Lord was to spend time in a book that will help me cultivate a love and passion for the church and pastoral ministry.
As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,  nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,  desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions (1 Timothy 1:3-7 ESV)
- Paul left Timothy, his apostolic delegate, in Ephesus. Why Timothy? The answer is not in this text but Philippians 2:20 sheds some light on why Paul left Timothy.
- Paul did not assign and abandon. He continued to mentor Timothy.
- Like Timothy, pastors do not go into a ministry as a pre-packaged finished product. They too need to continue to grow and develop and minister in their shortcomings. As Paul said later in the letter, “…so that all may see you progress” (1 Timothy 4:15). Pastors minister with encumbering inadequacies but we can minister with empowering grace (2 Corinthians 4:7; 12:9).
- Paul left Timothy at Ephesus to perform two key shepherding tasks: preserve pure doctrine (v. 3) and practice pastoral love (v. 5). There is both a firmness and a gentleness that is required in carrying out these tasks.
- The pastor serves most effectively when he serves from his inner life: a pure heart, a good conscience, a sincere faith (v. 5). These qualities that should be cultivated and displayed in the shepherd. Are “a pure heart,” “a good conscience,” “a sincere faith” synonymous phrases or are they pointing to nuances of spiritual formation?
How do we pray substantive prayers for our church when we don’t know how to pray specifically for them? Paul’s prayers for the churches provide some of the best ways to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Here are six ways a Christian can pray for his/her church family from Colossians 1:3-14.
- We can pray that faith in Christ, love for one another, and hope for the life to come would be evident in our church (vv. 3-5a).
- We can pray that the word of God would have free course and would bear fruit in our church (vv. 5b-6).
- We can pray that those who teach and preach would have an effective ministry of the word (v. 7).
- We can pray for the knowledge of God’s will by knowing His word (v. 9).
- We can pray for a fruitful Christian life that “walks” in the knowledge of God (v. 10).
- We can pray for the divine strength for perseverance characterized by patience and joy (v. 11).
I came across these words from the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon. He first delivered these words 144 years ago but they provide fresh encouragement today.
Thank God, there are many workers here tonight, and maybe they will put themselves down as feeble. May the words I utter be an encouragement to them, and to feeble workers collectively. When a church begins, it is usually small; and the day of small things is a time of considerable anxiety and fear. I may be addressing some who are members of a newly-organised church. Dear brethren, do not despise the day of small things. Rest assured that God does not save by numbers, and that results are not in the spiritual kingdom in proportion to numbers (“Encouragement for the Depressed,” a sermon preached on Sunday evening, August 27, 1871).
Today marks the 103rd anniversary of the most famous boating accident in history. On April 14, 1912 the Titanic struck an iceberg at 11:40pm. It sank into its watery grave on April 15, 1912 at 2:20am. The vessel settled 13,000 feet below the surface 400 miles off of Newfoundland, Canada. The wreckage, discovered in 1985, sits as a haunting monument to the ship that was hailed as the unsinkable ship. The maximum capacity on the lifeboats was not enough to rescue everyone aboard. As we now know, death awaited 1500 of the 2200 aboard that fateful night. While the ship was sinking, the good news of Jesus Christ was preached to those on board in the waning minutes of life. A man named John Harper used the last moments of his life to talk to others about their eternal destiny. Here’s the account as published online by Dan Graves, “While Titanic Sank, John Harper Preached.” Even though 1500 people entered eternity that night, perhaps some received the gift of eternal life as a result of one man’s faithful witness of Christ’s love to those who were perishing.
The clear April night sky was filled with sparkling stars as the largest and finest steamship in the world sped through the calm seas of the icy North Atlantic. Many of the passengers had gone to bed, but some still could be found in the lounges, enjoying the Titanic’s luxury. No one was alarmed by the slight jar felt around 11:15, but many noticed when they no longer felt the vibrations of the engines.
Ignoring iceberg warnings, the Titanic had been steaming full speed ahead. Suddenly she struck a large iceberg which ripped her side. Within fifteen minutes the captain realized the danger of the situation, and the wireless operator put out a call for assistance. Sailors made lifeboats ready and ordered women and children to get into them first (Christian culture had stamped the ideas of chivalry into men, making them willing to give up their lives for women and children as their protectors, something rarely seen in other cultures). There were 12 honeymooning couples on board the ship. Though all of the brides were saved, only one of the grooms survived.
The captain ordered the band to play to keep up the spirits of the passengers. It began playing a rag-time tune, but soon was playing hymns.
There were only twenty lifeboats on the huge ocean liner– barely enough for 1/3 of the passengers and crew. Not all of them could be lowered. All 85 engineers continued to work to keep the ship afloat as long as possible. At the end many people knelt together in prayer until the waters covered them.
Throughout the mournful, evacuation, with loved ones being tearfully separated, the band continued to play. There is some dispute about what was played that night. Several people in the life boats heard “Nearer My God to Thee.”
One of the passengers traveling on the ship was evangelist John Harper. He put his six-year old daughter into a life boat and then ran through the ship warning others of the danger and talking to them about the eternal destiny of their souls. When he was finally forced to jump into the icy water, he clung to a piece of wreckage and asked another man “Are you saved?” When the man answered no, John said to him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
When the Titanic sank early in the morning on this day, April 15, 1912, John Harper was among the 1,522 people who died. The band went down with the ship. The last hymn they played was “Autumn,” which concludes with the prayer
Hold me up in mighty waters
Keep my eyes on things above,
Righteousness, divine Atonement,
Peace, and everlasting Love.
I am currently reading in the gospel of Matthew for my devotions. I have really been challenged to walk with Jesus and sit at His feet and reacquaint myself with what it means to be His follower. Matthew 5-7 comprise what we commonly know as the Sermon on the Mount. Contemporary Christians must hear the Master’s words and then receive them with all of their moral weight. Matthew 5:27-30 deals with the subject of lust. This sin of lust makes promise after promise to satisfy only to bring moral and marital ruin. Here are four observations on lust from the words of Jesus.
1. Lust is not confined to action, rather it is committed at the level of intent. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ [action]  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart [intent]” (vv. 27-28). “You can look but not touch” badly misses the mark of Jesus’ teaching.
2. Lust is a sin that promises gratification but actually leads to destruction (physical, relational, and spiritual) (cf. Proverbs 5:1-6). “For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (v. 29, 30). Jesus says this twice. It should really capture our attention.
3. Lust must be fought militantly. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (v. 29)…”And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (v. 30). Hyperbole? Yes, I think so. But to simply place these statements under that literary rubric and then diminish the weight of these statements is the height of folly. If we do not resist lust (and any other sin) “to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4), we are placing our souls and bodies in eternal danger.
4. Lust does not characterize a follower of Christ. The very inclusion of this topic is an imperative for being set apart (i.e. holy) as followers of Christ. Yes, sex is a natural, God-given human drive (and it should be celebrated and enjoyed according to God’s pattern; cf. Proverbs 5:15-19; Song of Solomon). Yes, we live in a hyper-sexualized culture. Yes, we are surrounded by and immersed in sexually-charged content. But none of these realities excuse us from not battling the sin of lust. Moreover, the follower of Christ can overcome this sin (Romans 6:6-7).
We must see lust as our Lord described it. Battling and overcoming lust is what Jesus said His disciples must do, thereby distinguishing themselves as salt and light in a morally decaying and dark culture by the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit. So battle lust my brothers and sisters knowing that the battle is hard but the victory is yours.
(Image of Mt. Eremos from bibleplaces.com, Mount of Beatitudes)
As we look ahead to 2015, each member of the Roman family will set some goals in four areas. We are using this goal sheet to identify some areas we can focus on in the coming year. Whether or not you are setting goals for the coming year, I hope you have a happy and blessed 2015.