Day 306: Overcoming death

Psalms 28-30; 2 Timothy 4

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Death. We weren’t created for it. We were created for life and the joy of community. But sin’s effects trickle down into each one of us – making death inevitable.

For the Christian, however, there is hope beyond death – as we look forward to a new world not marred by sin and to perfect fellowship with God and others. This is Paul’s hope as he faces his imminent execution.

Paul describes to Timothy how God has remained faithful to him – even in his darkest hour (2 Timothy 4:17). And Paul awaits death in faith, expecting to see His Lord and Savior, face to face (4:18).

Where does such strength come from? How can Paul be at peace in such dire circumstances?

Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him (Psalm 28:6-7).

Paul has nothing to fear in death. He rests in the grace of God – which has strengthened him to persevere to the end, equipping him to accomplish the work God prepared for him to do…

…the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

We, the children of God, the ones who have been ransomed by his blood and have received the righteousness of Christ through faith – we are saved from the hopelessness of death. Even though we weren’t created for it, God has overcome it, and we can say confidently with Paul: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 2:18).

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever (Psalm 30:11-12)!

Day 305: The benefit of Scripture

Psalms 25-272 Timothy 3

How many times have you heard this verse?

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16).

This verse is used often to confirm that the Bible is God’s word, and validates the divine revelation of all of Scripture, including the Old Testament. But the context for this verse makes it even more powerful.

Remember, Paul is writing his final words to Timothy. These are his final thoughts, his last instructions. In this chapter, he warns Timothy that there will be false teachers in the “last days,” and that he is to continue in what he has learned. In other words, he is to study God’s word… so that he is so familiar with the truth that he will not be lured away from God by a counterfeit gospel.

In my early days as a Christian, I would look to Scripture to help guide me in life’s major decisions. What should my college major be? Should I go to graduate school? Should I take this job? When will I get married? And as I searched the Scriptures for “God’s will” in these decisions, I would come away frustrated. Scripture didn’t give me any direct answers. Nevertheless, I prayed the words of Psalm 25 & 27 often.

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long (Psalm 25:4-5).

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path (Psalm 27:11).

I found myself coming back to these Psalms over and over again, praying for direction. And as time passed, other parts of these Psalms began to be more meaningful to me…

You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek” (Psalm 27:8).

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust (Psalm 25:1).

I never heard directly from God on what job I should take or what my college degree should be, but I learned something more precious. As I spent consistent time in His word, praying His word and meditating on His word, God changed me. I became more concerned about seeking Him than seeking answers. And as I sought to stay faithful in the small daily decisions, the major decisions seemed to fall into place – in ways that were obviously from God.

Later in life, when tragedy struck, the years of studying God’s word prepared me to face hardship with a deep assurance of God’s goodness and care.

The world offers a cornucopia of distractions to entice us away from the consistent study of God’s word. But in the pages of the Bible, we find God. What could be more enticing than that?

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! (Psalm 27:13-14).

Day 304: The gift of God’s presence

Psalms 23-242 Timothy 2

The Presence of God…think about what a profound gift this is. Both of today’s Psalms celebrate his Presence… Psalm 23 is the familiar Psalm of comfort – promising God’s presence to the individual. While Psalm 24 celebrates God’s presence among the people. It was probably sung as David led the people in worship when he brought the ark (the symbol of God’s presence) back to Jerusalem.

Experiencing God’s presence both individually and corporately is one of the greatest gifts given to the Christian on this earth. Paul must have rested in the sure presence of his God as he waited to be executed…chained as a prisoner in Rome.

Paul’s circumstances elevate the urgency of his words to his beloved Timothy. We are given the privilege of listening to this intimate exchange, and Paul’s final instructions to TImothy are powerful.

Paul gives Timothy the strategy for world evangelization:

what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).

This was Jesus’ strategy…focused discipleship resulting in spiritual multiplication. This is how Christianity spread over the whole earth – by entrusting the truth to faithful men (and women :)!

Paul had more to say to Timothy… He called Timothy to “share in the suffering of Christ” (2:3), to “Remember Jesus Christ” (2:8), and finally to handle the word of truth cautiously, increasing in kindness and not inciting quarrels (2:14-26).

These are profound instructions! …but impossible to accomplish without the constant presence of God in our lives.

It is the experience of His presence that affirms our salvation – that we are His. And encouraged by His preserving presence, we are given the strength to persevere… as good soldiers of Christ Jesus” (2 TImothy 2:3).

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).

Day 303: The final chapters

Psalms 20-222 Timothy 1

All of today’s passages are so full and rich with God’s truths. Today is a day that I wish I had more time to explore these beautiful texts – but our goal is to read through the bible in a year – so we must soar through them. But as we soar, we can gain a bird’s-eye view – and amazingly, the entire scope of God’s redemptive history is revealed…

Psalms 20-21 are a pair of Psalms that celebrate the kingdom of Israel. The people offer prayers and praise in Psalm 20 for their king. And in Psalm 21, king David responds with thanksgiving to God for answering the prayers of the people.

Israel…she was the initial fulfillment of God’s Covenant promises to Abraham – that he would establish a nation through which all the nations of the earth would be blessed. David was God’s chosen king, a man after His own heart – that pointed forward to the Forever King, the promised descendent of David – who would usher in God’s eternal Kingdom on earth.

The lives of David and Jesus overlap in a most poignant way in Psalm 22. David’s Psalm describes an “innocent sufferer” and somehow, Jesus fulfills every detail of this Psalm in His crucifixion. Matthew’s crucifixion account, especially, makes special reference to this Psalm…

For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots (Psalm 22:16-18).

Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, our salvation has been secured. Jesus is the promised seed of Abraham through which all the nations will be blessed. And Jesus is the prophesied “Branch of Jesse” that will restore God’s Kingdom on the earth.

Which leads us to 2 Timothy. The setting for 2 Timothy is a prison where Paul is awaiting execution. Commentators believe that Paul was imprisoned in Rome after a 4th missionary journey not recorded in Acts. 2 Timothy is Paul’s last known letter before he was martyred.

The tone of 2 Timothy is warm and fatherly as he gives Timothy final instructions and encouragement before he dies. What a treasure! Paul writes…

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:8-9).

This is our calling as well. As we wait for the return of our Lord to usher in the final fulfillment of all God’s Covenant promises, we are to share in the suffering of Christ for the gospel! Our lives are part of God’s redemptive history. We are living in the final chapters before the return of Christ!

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:6-7).