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“Pay Close Attention to the Fundamentals”

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 2
Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player who ever lived.Yet, even Michael Jordan was cut from his basketball team during his sophomore season of varsity basketball.Following being cut, he worked even harder at his game and saw that failure as an opportunity to succeed.Michael once said, “Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”I would imagine that Michael worked nearly every day on the fundamentals of the game to improve.Even as an NBA legend, during his pregame rituals you could find him working on the fundamentals. In Hebrews 2:1 the writer says, “…we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it”.Could it be that the writer is giving us a warning to make sure we pay close attention to those fundamentals of our faith?I believe he is; but what are these fundamentals?If you will notice Hebrews 1 is reminding us of the way that God has communicated with His people over the course…

“Adoring the Doctrine”

BIBLE READING: Titus 1-Hebrews 1
In Titus 2.10 Paul encourages us to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior”.That word “adorn” is a very interesting choice of words.The Greek word for “adorn”, is the word in which we get our English word “cosmetics”.It means “causing something to have an attractive appearance”.We have seen this word before from Paul in I Timothy 2.9 when he directs the women to “adorn themselves with proper clothing”.John uses this word in Revelation 21.2 to describe the heaven as a “bride adorned for her husband”.Yet here in this context Paul is using the word as he addresses slaves.Slaves (or bondservants) were considered the lowest class on the social chart.Here Paul is reminding them that it doesn’t matter what class you are in, how much money that you have or what you even look like; you can be attractive to others by allowing the doctrine of Christ to be seen in your life.How is it possible for a “slave”, to be attractive as it adorned the doctrine of Christ?By do…

“The Book of Better Things”

BIBLE READING: Hebrews 1
Several years ago, as a child while attending a Gospel Meeting, I was listening to a Minister teach a class on the overview of the book of Hebrews.That was the first time I had ever heard the book of Hebrews being called the “Book of Better Things”.Essentially, that is exactly what it is about.It explains how the new covenant is much better than the old covenant, how the one new sacrifice is better than all the old ones, and the one mediator is better than the many of the past.In fact, the very first chapter sets the stage for this as he introduces the concept of Jesus being the means by which God speaks to us.Long ago, God spoke to humanity through the patriarchs like Adam, Noah and Abraham.Then He spoke to us through Moses and the Law, as He began to reveal to us how the Law was going to show us just how much we needed Jesus.Finally, God saw fit for us to speak to us using Jesus.How is Jesus better than the patriarch and the Law?The book of Hebrews answers th…

“Strength in Submission”

BIBLE READING: Philemon 1
During the Reformation, when Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli were exchanging strong words about Biblical interpretations and ecclesiastical practices, Zwingli spent a troubled morning walking the mountain trails of his beloved Switzerland. From a distance he observed two goats making their way toward each other on a path barely stitched to the side of a cliff. It was obvious that these nimble creatures could not pass one another. As the goats approached each other, each feinted a power move at the other in what looked like the beginning of a battle. In a surprise twist, however, one goat suddenly collapsed onto the narrow ledge so the other goat could walk over its back. Then each moved on. Zwingli was impressed. Here was strength defined by submission. It allowed two opponents to survive a crisis so both could get on with more important things. Zwingli applied the lesson to his next encounter with Luther. The same principle is evident in Paul’s words to Philemo…

“He Saved Us”

BIBLE READING: Titus 3
There are some things in life that we take for granted on a regular basis.For instance, even as you read this devotional you are inhaling air that contains about 21% oxygen. When you breathe in, ‘fresh’ air, it enters your lungs and reaches the air sacs (alveoli) which have very thin walls in contact with blood capillaries. The (deoxygenated) blood contains hemoglobin which has an affinity for oxygen. By the process of diffusion, oxygen is driven by the blood, taken up by the hemoglobin (in the red blood cells), and then transported by circulation to the rest of the cells in the body. Then the expired air now contains less oxygen and more carbon dioxide is exhaled from the body only to begin the monotonous process again.I will have to admit, I had to google that explanation of how oxygen from the air enters our blood stream.Proving my very point…we inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale, inhale and exhale; instinctively without a second thought.We get so caught up …

“A Model of Good Works”

BIBLE READING: Titus 2 As we live in this world, there a lot of things that are out of our control.We cannot control what the stock market will do, we can’t dictate the weather, we can’t even control how other people treat us.When we notice all the things that are beyond our control, it is easy to remember what we can control…ourselves.As Paul imparts his words of wisdom from the Holy Spirit to Titus he says “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8) We mustn’t forget that the conditions that Titus was living in were not the most Christian.Daily he was having to deal with pagans, sexual immorality, mercenaries and liars.No matter how much work Titus did in Crete, he could not control the conditions that he was living in.However, he could make a difference in their lives by the way he handle…

“We Need Leaders Too”

BIBLE READING: Titus 1 The island of Crete was not a very wholesome place for one to live.The island was known to inhabit criminals and mercenaries who would commit heinous acts for the highest bidder.It was so well known for being a place of dishonesty and deceit that Paul even quotes one of the Cretan prophets in Titus 1.12 “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts and lazy gluttons”.In fact, if you were to call someone a Cretan, you were essentially calling them a liar. Geographically, the island had many strategic seaports that sent ships all over the known world.The Apostle Paul thought because of all the dishonest, idolatry and immorality as well as the strategic places of the seaports, this seemed like a perfect place for him to establish a church.Afterall, they needed Jesus and with so many people coming and going into the city this would aid in the spread of the Gospel.In fact, there seemed to have already been several house churches from those who might have heard the Gospel on …

“Learning to Respect”

BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 6- 2 Timothy 4
As I read through I & 2 Timothy, the word “respect” keeps popping into my mind.Personally, I just don’t see respect being given as it has been in generations before.Instead of respecting those who fight for our freedoms, we see people kneeling during the national anthem.Instead of respecting the police officers, we record them in case they make a mistake.Instead of respecting one’s opinions, we criticize them for not showing tolerance.Instead of respecting the Word of God, we simply pay no attention to it.We must remember that Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, who is a young man.As his elder, Paul feels it necessary to instruct him on how he should behave towards those that were older than him.In I Timothy, Paul reminds him of those that deserve his respect; kings and people in authority (I Timothy 2.2), older men and women (I Timothy 5.1), widows (I Timothy 5.3), elders (I Timothy 5.17), masters (I Timothy 6.1) and finally the Word of …

"Itching ears"

BIBLE READING: 2 Timothy 4 Paul's description of people having "itching ears" is picturesque. The Greek word, literally means "to itch, rub, scratch, or tickle." This figure of speech implies that they had an itch that had to be scratched, or as William Barclay puts it, "they have ears which have to be continually titillated with novelties" (The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, p. 202). Such open their ears to any teacher who will relieve their particular "itch" regardless of how it measures against the truth. The solution resides in proper discernment based on God's infallible Word.Judgment must be based on His whole counsel. John writes, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). Christ commended the Ephesian church for this."I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those …

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God"

BIBLE READING: 2 Timothy 3
Literally the words stand, all Scripture, God-breathed and profitable, a remarkable expression, reminding us of the early record, "God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul."The breath of God has entered these holy words, and they live. God's instruction is given so that we are well-supplied with knowledge, understanding, inspiration, and motivation to live by faith. Yielding to God's sovereignty is not merely the rationale for divine government. Doctrine means "teaching," and it is by these teachings that the great realities of our God are revealed to us. We are spiritually nourished by doctrine, and as we apply it, growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ occurs. A couple of easily understood scriptures help us understand how God's Word and living by faith work together to cause growth. Romans 1:16-17 informs us, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to sal…

"Competes according to the rules"

BIBLE READING: 2 Timothy 2
The apostle takes his metaphor from athletics. He advises Timothy that if he is striving to win in his ministry, he will not be crowned unless he disciplines himself to follow the rules. In games (whether cards, croquet in the backyard, basketball, or whatever), we are often confronted with the opportunity to bend or to break the rules. The player must discipline himself or face the penalties and maybe even find himself disqualified. If a player breaks the rules in football, he receives a 5-yard, 10-yard, or 15-yard penalty. In some games, the rule-breaker just gets thrown right out! The athlete, then, must discipline himself. Paul uses this in regard to members of God's church. If we desire to be crowned, we have to strive within the rules. We have to discipline ourselves. In Timothy's case, the rules are scattered throughout Paul's epistle to him. In terms of the Sabbath and the annual feast days, they are the only days in the entire Bible that Go…

"He is able to keep my deposit. . . . The good deposit, keep."

BIBLE READING: 2 Timothy 1
There is a double deposit here, and the comparison becomes clear and marked in the Greek.When we entrust our most precious treasure into the care of Jesus, He turns to honor us by entrusting his own treasure to our care.Oh that we might be as eager to keep what He entrusts to us as He is with what we have given over to Him, so that He would be able to say of us, "I know them in whom I have trusted, and am persuaded that they will never fail to do whatever needs to be done for my honor and glory." What is the true policy of life?How can I best spend the few years I have to the best advantage?What is there beyond?Such questions come to all earnest souls, and greatly trouble them, until they entrust the keeping of their souls and the direction of their lives into the hands of the Savior.We feel sure that He has the words of eternal life and that all power is given to Him in heaven and earth.At first there is something of a venture.We trust Him.Next, the…

"Now godliness with contentment is great gain."

BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 6
When we are thankful, it means that we have been impressed with a sense of kindness that has been expressed toward us, and we desire to acknowledge it. Essentially, we are grateful. Thankfulness is the actual expression of gratitude. Thankfulness is also a state of mind, an attitude. It does not focus on what we do not have, but rather values what we do have, no matter how basic. Paul continues this thought in the following verses, explaining that greediness creates many problems, ultimately bringing upon us discontent and unhappiness, just the opposite of the thankfulness that real contentment generates. A popular bumper sticker from several years ago bore the slogan, "He who dies with the most toys . . . wins." Of course, it did not take long for those whose thinking ran counter to this to reply with their own sticker that read, "He who dies with the most things . . . is dead." It is true that the pursuit of material gain to the exclusion …

"Pray for Our Leaders"

BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 1-5
It seems that almost daily we are bombarded by the media concerning things related to Democrats and Republicans.Some believe that the Democrats are to blame for all the issues that are affecting our country.While others feel that the Republicans are at fault for all the problems that plague our nation.Whose fault is it?Is it the Democrats, the Republicans or maybe a little of both?Who are we as citizens of this great country supposed to trust?Maybe instead of complaining so much about all of the problems that exist, we simply take Paul’s advice to Timothy, “…I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).When we lift up our leaders …

"Provide for his own"

BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 5
We owe a duty to God and to the affairs of this life. We are to be diligent in our business, providing for ourselves and our families. God, at the very beginning ofGenesis 1-3, when He put Adam and Eve in the Garden, says that they were to dress and keep it, meaning to embellish it, to add to it, and to guard it from deterioration. Our responsibility includes being diligent in doing our job for our employer. We are not to squander and waste what we have. We are to look ahead and plan for future demands, taking into consideration that there will be emergencies like accidents, illness, death, natural disasters. We are to prepare for such things. If we fail to do so, we do not show faith that "God will provide," but rather presumption in throwing all the responsibility on God while we ignore ours, failing to fulfill what God instructs. There is much to be learned about God's Kingdom and getting prepared for it by carefully using our resources. The da…

"Conscience seared with a hot iron"

BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 4
In I Timothy 4:2, Paul speaks of people searing or cauterizing their consciences with a hot iron. Willard Gaylin writes that "the failure to feel guilt is the basic flaw in the psychopath, or antisocial person, who is capable of committing crimes of the vilest sort without remorse or contrition." We could describe the unpardonable sin as the incapacity to feel remorse or a person being determined to override every warning signal of guilt. If people repeatedly violate their consciences, masking their guilt by using escapist "analgesics," the consequences become devastating. Without the stimulus of spiritual pain, they become incapable of changing their behavior. The seared conscience is the ultimate result of the process Paul describes in Romans 1:28: "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over [abandoned them, Twentieth Century New Testament] to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fi…

"Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness"

BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 3
It is more than likely that this is a fragment of one of the earliest hymns of the Church.In her hymns, and ordinances, she becomes the pillar of the truth.The words "mystery of godliness" are probably a general heading which is further unfolded in the six following sentences: "God was manifest in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit. Seen of angels, Preached unto the Gentiles. Believed on in the world, Received up into glory." The Eternal Word was manifested in the flesh.It was not simply a physical manifestation.We cannot forget the descent of the Holy Spirit at Jesus’ baptism or the authentication of His words that the Spirit gave in signs and wonders to convince hearts and covert lives. Angels worship Him.Gentiles, sunk in heathen darkness, heard the story of his wondrous love.Jesus is the center of all worlds.From heaven's brightest spaces they come to Him, and from earth's darkest sins they come.In Him meet angels and men. He was receiv…

"Pray for all Men"

BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 2
In the first chapter of I Timothy, Paul is concerned about sound doctrine. He describes for Timothy (and us) the damaging results when faith is replaced by speculation and when dissension is substituted for love. What could Timothy do in such a situation? He could not remain silent in the face of heresy and could not compromise with it.He was to stay at his post and fight for the faith.

If chapter one is concerned primarily with sound doctrine, chapter two is concerned with instructions of worship, both public and private. In your study of these verses, notice the emphasis on "all men," in 1 Timothy 2:1-7.Pray "for all men," (1,2). God desires "all men" to be saved (3,4). Jesus gave Himself a ransom "for all," (5,6). Paul was called and appointed an apostle to preach the gospel to “all men” (7).

Prayer for all men: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be…

"Sinners, of whom I am chief"

BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 1

Paul was a great sinner. He knew it. He never got over the fact that he persecuted those who believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah (1 Corinthians 15.9). How many times he must have asked himself, “How could I, a Pharisee, schooled in the Law and prophets, have been so blind as to not recognize the Messiah?” “How could I, a beneficiary of the best education, taught by the most brilliant rabbi, have missed the One to whom all the prophets pointed?” All that was true.
If the religion of Christ has any truth or merit, Saul of Tarsus would have certainly been able to accept it.He had approved the execution of Stephen (Acts 7:58), worked to lay waste the church (Acts 8:3), and was heading to Damascus to do more damage (Acts 9:1-2).He then saw a great light, and we can only imagine how he must have felt when he heard that the "Lord" is the Jesus whom he has been persecuting (Acts 9:4-6).What guilt and shame. How terribly wrong and misguided his work…

"Love Ruled…"

BIBLE READING: 1 Thessalonians 4- 2 Thessalonians 3
In 1931 Gospel Advocate did a publication that was entirely dedicated to the ministry of T. B. Larimore, it was entitled “Life, Letters and Sermons of T.B. Larimore”.  Within that publication was a chapter that was dedicated to our own Mars Hill Bible School.  Simply called Mars Hill back in the 1800’s, Brother Larimore began with a dream to create a school where the Bible could be taught everyday along with the other necessary subjects like math and reading.  It was his goal to create an environment where the love of Jesus would be manifested in every teacher and student.  Within that article was a quote that was used by Larimore that was concerned with the treatment of its teachers and students; “We loved one another and loved ruled the school.”  That phrase has since become not only the school’s theme, but a daily reminder of what is important; the love of Jesus.  There is no doubt in my mind that Brother Larimore’s statement was d…

"But the Lord is faithful"

BIBLE READING: 2 Thessalonians 3
At the end of verse 2, Paul wrote, "For not all have faith."Using a word play, he followed this statement by saying, "But the Lord is faithful."God's faithfulness stands in contrast to an evil man's inability to remain loyal.What is the meaning of “the Lord is faithful"?We can count on God.People often break their promises, but God never does. (Romans 3:4; 1 Corinthians 1:9) Christians can and should pray to Him and know that He will respond to their needs. He will "strengthen" us.God is all powerful.Jesus said, "With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).The Greek word for "strengthen" means to establish, to make firm, support.Just as a dam can be supported by thousands of sandbags during a time of flooding, God supports us.Christ promises to be with us until the end of time (Matthew 28:20).Paul realized this divine backing when he wrote, "I can do all things through Him who strengthen…

"God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation"

BIBLE READING: 2 Thessalonians 2
Paul was compelled to give thanks for the Thessalonians.The principle reason for his gratitude is that they had been chosen of God.It was a dual choosing.God chose them through the invitation of the gospel, and they were among the chosen by accepting God's invitation.
Every Christian is called by the gospel into salvation when he obeys it. (v.14) The Thessalonians had obeyed the gospel and had come into this salvation, causing Paul to rejoice with thanksgiving. They received sanctification when they became Christians and had continued to grow in it.Nothing delights a preacher more than realizing that those he has converted are becoming more and more devoted to God. Paul praised God that the Thessalonians were set apart to live by the truth.God seeks a band of people who will honor His Word in the world. The new converts were on their way to heaven, destined to glory.They would one day obtain and share in the glory of Jesus Christ.

“More Commendable Traits”

BIBLE READING: 2 Thessalonians 1
Even though Paul doesn't spend time talking about himself as he begins the letter, he does take time to compliment the Thessalonians before he races into the subject he wants to discuss.He has the Thessalonians on his heart.He says, "We…give thanks to God for you" (v.3). "We…speak proudly of you" (v.4). "We pray for you" (v.11). Paul used the words, "We ought always to give thanks to God for you" (v.3), to show that their spiritual condition inspired him to give thanks for them.He further said that he was giving thanks for them "as is only fitting."This phrase indicates that the thanksgiving Paul was voicing was no more than that which was appropriate. Why was he thankful for the Thessalonians?He saw traits in them that we need to see in ourselves: ·Faith that has grown strong. ·A love that has increased. ·A steadfastness that refuses intimidation (perseverance). We should encourage faithful Christians we …

"That Day"

BIBLE READING: 1 Thessalonians 5
The expression, "the day of the Lord," is found frequently in the Old Testament.Before the New Testament, it referred to any day when God brought His judgment or special blessings on nations, cities, or people.It is also applied to God's destruction of a city or to the discipline of His people.The expression that Paul used finds its background in the Old Testament. In verse 2, however, Paul was writing about the day of days, the final day of time and the ending of the world.This important day is referred to in several ways in the New Testament.Noting these ways might help us to put this day in its proper perspective. ·Because of its relation to the Lord, it will be "the day of the Lord."God will be the center of it.Christians do not look for an event, we look for someone to come, the great Redeemer. ·Because of its relation to the unrighteous, it will be "a day of wrath."Paul called it "the day of wrath and revelation…

"Sorrow not, even as the rest, which have no hope."

BIBLE READING: 1 Thessalonians 4
Nature will have her due.  Tears will fall, and hearts will seem near breaking.  Nowhere does God rebuke the tears of natural affection.  It is written in Scripture that "Jesus wept."  God sets Himself to extract their bitterness.  Sorrow you may, and must, but not without hope. Those who die in Christ are with Him.They are said to sleep, not because they are unconscious, but because their death was not filled with terror.Believers have died once in Christ, and it was necessary to find a word that describes the moment of our leaving this world and our birth into the next.The catacombs are covered with the brief significant sentence, "He slept in Christ."Just as in sleep, the spirit is conscious, of which our dreams bear witness.It is so in the last sleep.Absent from the body, we shall be present with the Lord. Those who die in Christ will come with Him.They are now waiting for God to give the final order for the whole heavenly processi…