Sunday, July 31, 2016


"Beautiful Letdown" (Switchfoot) and Dual Citizenship

This morning our pastor preached a sermon on "Dual Citizenship" to remind us Christians that we are NOT citizens of this world. Our citizenship in Christ and in his kingdom must take priority in how we live out our lives as citizens here on earth. Before he started his sermon, he mentioned the lyrics of the Switchfoot song "Beautiful Letdown". Since it is one of my favorites, I wanted to share it in its entirety here:

It was a beautiful letdown
When I crashed and burned
When I found myself alone
Unknown and hurt 
It was a beautiful letdown
The day I knew
That all the riches this world had to offer me
Would never do 
In a world full of bitter pain
And bitter doubts
I was trying so hard to fit in, fit in
Until I found out 
That I don't belong here
I don't belong here
I will carry a cross and a song
Where I don't belong, I don't belong 
It was a beautiful letdown
When you found me here
Yeah, for once in a rare blue moon
I see everything clear 
I'll be a beautiful letdown
That's what I'll forever be
And though it may cost my soul
I'll sing for free 
We're still chasing our tails in the rising sun
In our dark water planet still spinning
In a direction no one wins, no one's won 
See, I don't belong here
Well, I don't belong here
I will carry across with a song
Where I don't belong, I don't belong
I don't belong here 
Well, I don't belong here
I'm gonna set sight and set sail
For the kingdom come, kingdom come
Your kingdom come 
Won't you let me down, yeah
Let my foolish proud
Forever let me down 
Ah, easy living you're not much like the name
Easy dying, you look just about the same
Would you please take me off your list?
Easy living, please c'mon and let me down 
We are a beautiful letdown
Painfully uncool
The church of the dropouts
And losers and sinners and failures and the fools 
What a beautiful let down
Are we salt in the wound?
Hey, let us sing one true tune, hey yeah 
I don't belong here
No, I don't belong here
No, I don't belong here
It feels like I don't belong here, yeah
No, I don't belong here
It goes like I don't belong here
Yo, I don't belong 
Won't you let me down?
C'mon and let me down
You always let me down
So glad that I'm letdown, hey
C'mon and let me down
'Cause I don't belong here
Please, won't you let me down
The sermon focused on John 17 and Jesus' prayer for his followers to have unity. One of the things Jesus mentions is that his followers are in this world, but they are also not of this world. He prays for God to protect them, to help them be unified, and to show them how to love as God loves.

No, I don't belong here . . . the story doesn't seem complete. This world is missing something . . . it is incomplete. Would be messiahs will tell us that they can fix what's wrong with this world, but ultimately it will take the return of the One who created it to make it right. The story isn't over yet, and even though the current chapter is less than happy for many, the truth is that it will not remain that way forever.

I don't belong here . . . every fiber of my being reminds me that there is something better that comes because of Someone by whose humble love I can learn to be truly alive.

May we all learn to be good citizens to that kingdom that will come! May we learn to be more like our King!

Thank you for reading!

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Thursday, June 30, 2016


In Honor of the Fourth of July--Happy Birthday America!

Well, the USA is about to celebrate yet another birthday, and although some people think that the brightness has worn off this "city on a hill," I'm not ready to read her obituary yet. I went back into the archives to find some quotes for today. The first one comes from John Wayne. On the internet you can find a lot of fun stuff about the Duke, but this audio of him speaking about his country is priceless to me. Click here to listen:

I wanted to add another one from my favorite actor. In the movie "The Alamo," Duke plays Davey Crockett, leader to the Tennessee volunteers. At one point in the movie he gives a speech about the USA and the idea of a "republic." Here is the excerpt I liked the best:

"Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat - the same tightness a man gets when his baby takes his first step or his first baby shaves and makes his first sound as a man. Some words can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm. Republic is one of those words."

Finally, I wanted to share a poem with you all. About 8 years ago I discovered the poetry of Edgar Guest. The first poem I ran into was his "It Couldn't Be Done" in which he describes an optimist who wouldn't say "it couldn't be done" until he tried, and in trying the optimist accomplished the thing. At any rate, Guest is the author of dozens of patriotic poems, and I wanted to share this one in honor of the men and women who serve the USA in the various branches of our military and reserves. As you read this poem, why not say a short prayer of thanks for their service and ask God to protect them as they serve? Here's the poem, "The Things that Make a Soldier Great," by Edgar Guest:

The things that make a soldier great and send him out to die,
To face the flaming cannon's mouth nor ever question why,
Are lilacs by a little porch, the row of tulips red,
The peonies and pansies, too, the old petunia bed,
The grass plot where his children play, the roses on the wall:
'Tis these that make a soldier great.
He's fighting for them all. 
'Tis not the pomp and pride of kings that make a soldier brave;
'Tis not allegiance to the flag that over him may wave;
For soldiers never fight so well on land or on the foam
As when behind the cause they see the little place called home.
Endanger but that humble street whereon his children run,
You make a soldier of the man who never bore a gun. 
What is it through the battle smoke the valiant solider sees?
The little garden far away, the budding apple trees,
The little patch of ground back there, the children at their play,
Perhaps a tiny mound behind the simple church of gray.
The golden thread of courage isn't linked to castle dome
But to the spot, where'er it be --the humblest spot called home. 
And now the lilacs bud again and all is lovely there
And homesick soldiers far away know spring is in the air;
The tulips come to bloom again, the grass once more is green,
And every man can see the spot where all his joys have been.
He sees his children smile at him, he hears the bugle call,
And only death can stop him now --he's fighting for them all.
On this fourth of July weekend, as you give thanks for the freedoms and opportunities God has given you in this land, please remember to pray for those who defend our way of life and for the families of those whose loved ones paid the ultimate price so that we can enjoy our great republic. Remember, it may be a cliche, but it is true that "Freedom isn't free."

Thanks for reading!

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Monday, May 30, 2016


Memorial Day Speech from Ronald Reagan, 1982

Typically on the weekend of Memorial Day I post a famous poem by Edgar Guest.  This year I decided to share a different message.  Below is a speech by Ronald Reagan in 1982.  I think a lot of what he says sums up my opinions on the observance of this day in honor of our military and those who gave their lives in defense of freedom.  I hope you enjoy it!

Speech: Remarks at Memorial Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, May 31, 1982 

In America's cities and towns today, flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries; public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor. 

In 1863, when Abraham Lincoln dedicated a small cemetery in Pennsylvania marking a terrible collision between the armies of North and South, he noted the swift obscurity of such speeches. Well, we know now that Lincoln was wrong about that particular occasion. His remarks commemorating those who gave their "last full measure of devotion'' were long remembered. But since that moment at Gettysburg, few other such addresses have become part of our national heritage -- not because of the inadequacy of the speakers, but because of the inadequacy of words. 

I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them. 

Yet, we must try to honor them -- not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice. 

Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we -- in a less final, less heroic way -- be willing to give of ourselves. 

It is this, beyond the controversy and the congressional debate, beyond the blizzard of budget numbers and the complexity of modern weapons systems, that motivates us in our search for security and peace. War will not come again, other young men will not have to die, if we will speak honestly of the dangers that confront us and remain strong enough to meet those dangers. 

It's not just strength or courage that we need, but understanding and a measure of wisdom as well. We must understand enough about our world to see the value of our alliances. We must be wise enough about ourselves to listen to our allies, to work with them, to build and strengthen the bonds between us. 

Our understanding must also extend to potential adversaries. We must strive to speak of them not belligerently, but firmly and frankly. And that's why we must never fail to note, as frequently as necessary, the wide gulf between our codes of morality. And that's why we must never hesitate to acknowledge the irrefutable difference between our view of man as master of the state and their view of man as servant of the state. Nor must we ever underestimate the seriousness of their aspirations to global expansion. The risk is the very freedom that has been so dearly won. 

It is this honesty of mind that can open paths to peace, that can lead to fruitful negotiation, that can build a foundation upon which treaties between our nations can stand and last -- treaties that can someday bring about a reduction in the terrible arms of destruction, arms that threaten us with war even more terrible than those that have taken the lives of the Americans we honor today. 

Our goal is peace. We can gain that peace by strengthening our alliances, by speaking candidly of the dangers before us, by assuring potential adversaries of our seriousness, by actively pursuing every chance of honest and fruitful negotiation. 

It is with these goals in mind that I will depart Wednesday for Europe, and it's altogether fitting that we have this moment to reflect on the price of freedom and those who have so willingly paid it. For however important the matters of state before us this next week, they must not disturb the solemnity of this occasion. Nor must they dilute our sense of reverence and the silent gratitude we hold for those who are buried here. 

The willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. One gets that feeling here on this hallowed ground, and I have known that same poignant feeling as I looked out across the rows of white crosses and Stars of David in Europe, in the Philippines, and the military cemeteries here in our own land. Each one marks the resting place of an American hero and, in my lifetime, the heroes of World War I, the Doughboys, the GI's of World War II or Korea or Vietnam. They span several generations of young Americans, all different and yet all alike, like the markers above their resting places, all alike in a truly meaningful way. 

Winston Churchill said of those he knew in World War II they seemed to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, "just the best darn kids in the world.'' Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life. Well, they didn't volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience. 

As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of young men will every have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice. 

Earlier today, with the music that we have heard and that of our National Anthem -- I can't claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don't know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask.
Thank you for reading!  And special thanks to all those families whose loved ones paid the greatest price to ensure our freedom. "Greater love has no man than this . . . " May God bless you all!

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Saturday, April 30, 2016


A Sad Anniversary and a Reminder--The Holocaust

Recently we remembered a sad page in the history of humanity, we recalled the liberation of prison camps and the people in them from the nightmare of Nazi oppression and tyranny. Annually I try to remind myself of the depth of depravity to which humanity can slip, especially humanity that justifies its inhumanity and brutality by science. The Nazis showed the dark beastial side of humanity, the side we all possess to some degree (although most of us will never admit it). The Nazis were more than thugs or brutes or even barbarians, they were humans that (in C. S. Lewis' words from The Abolition of Man) were humans without magnanimity, they were "men without chests." Here are Lewis' own words about such people:

"They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her. Indeed, it would be strange if they were: a perservering devotion to truth, a nice of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of sentiment . . . It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so." (C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001, p. 25).

These oppressors were not less human than the rest of us, they just acted as people without that emotion that makes our "better angels" show up instead of the "brutes" in each of us. They became the "elites" who judged other races in humanity as mere brutish nature to be studied. They were Social Darwinists who wanted to keep their race pure, and who ultimately participated in that which Lewis deems "the abolition of man." They were people like us. In many ways we hate to admit, they were us. As one survivor records the event of his liberation:

"The full record of the pseudo-medical experimentations came to light. Prisoners had been used as laboratory animals, without the humane restrictions placed on vivisection. Hannah Arendt suggested that `the camp was itself a vast laboratory in which the Nazis proved that there is no limit to human depravity.' For it was remembered that these experiments were not planned or conducted by identifiable psychopaths. They were performed or supervised by professional scientists, trained in what had been once considered peerless universities and medical schools. Reverend Franklin Littell called them `technically competent barbarians.' Indeed the procedures had the full approval and cooperation of Berlin's Institute of Hygiene." (Sachar, Abram L. The Redemption of the Unwanted. New York: St. Martin's/Marek, 1983, pp. 8-10)

Let us remember with sadness the number of innocents lost and the reality of our own potentially brutish nature. Let us never forget that without grace, we are all irredeemably lost. Could Dachau or Auschwitz (or the others) happen again? Only if humans let it, only if we deny once again our own humanity and treat our fellow humans as mere animals. Yes, it can happen again. Let's pray that it doesn't. Let's make sure it doesn't.

This topic is heavy and sad. I don't apologize for that, but I do want to put the weight down now. Thanks for reading.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Sounds of Silence--A Repeat

Nine years ago I was in the middle of trying to write and to establish a new program of study at Liberty University, and I found myself a bit overwhelmed.  You might even say that I was drowning in busy-ness and work.  Today I often find myself right back in that same ocean . . . swamped by a sense of "things to do" and "work, work work".

I think we all have been there.  The waves of life crash around us, and we sense we are sinking in the foam of life and finding ourselves stuck in the mire of everyday expectations.  The thunder and bluster of life's storms cause fear, and we lose focus on what really matters.  We succumb to the slumber brought about by drowning in activities--e-mail to answer, calls to be made, classes to prepare, friends to meet, people to impress, notes/articles to write, family expectations or obligations, to do lists full of things that just HAVE to be done today, etc.  The raging waves lull us to sleep as we are rocked steadily into a coma of concern.  The cacophony of our activities becomes the lullaby to our souls, and we yield to the siren's call, surrendering to what we think is really important.  We forget that we sometimes need a pause, a moment of Selah, a time to come apart before we fall apart.

In the middle of such a situation nine years ago, I wrote the following words.  They spoke to me then, and they convict me now.  How often I forget to sit silently in the presence of the Father who genuinely cares!  I come into his presence with my own agenda, dropping my "to do" lists in his lap as though they were a heavenly call that cannot be avoided.  Anyway, today I want to remind myself to sit with God, to just be silent in his awesome and awful presence with no agenda except to be with him.  I need some "quiet time", how about you?

Silence, cold eerie silence.

In this post-modern day and age, we rarely find ourselves in a place that is so utterly silent as to be practically without sound. We are surrounded by noise—the chattering of talk radio, the booming of the latest music craze, even in the shopping centers and elevators of life we encounter the ever-present reminder of Muzak to keep us company. At work we are assaulted with myriads of sounds, from the boss handing out assignments to the response of the assistant or the ringing of the phone. Even the internet is now wired for sound so that you can search for the latest piece of news or information with surround sound convenience. We return home from work only to turn on our cable TV to act as a kind of “white noise” in the background of our family lives. Some of us even go to sleep with the latest tunes playing on the radio to soothe our tired souls and “give us rest.” Today a human can actually go from womb to grave completely surrounded by the music of their own chosen personal soundtrack. Surely we are rarely without noise in our lives!

In this post-modern life we seem to have grown afraid of silence. We avoid it. We try to fill it with something that will give “meaning” to the emptiness. Why do we do that? Why do we fill our lives with sound?

Could it be that we are afraid of what we may actually hear if we are silent?

Could we be afraid that we may hear nothing? That we may be drowning in silence?

I believe we have grown accustomed to sound as a substitute for genuine communication with the transcendent. We have blocked out the very voice of the cosmos with our sound track so that we do not have to give our souls pause and just listen.

When was the last time you listened, really listened, to nature around you? I heard a mockingbird this morning, the bark of my dog, the jingling of my cat’s tags as he walked up the walk. It was so quiet I swear I could hear the sun groaning as it rose from its sleep!

I sat there, in silence. I listened. After a few seconds I grew jittery, even panicky. I really should be doing something, listening to something, “accomplishing” something worthwhile with my time.

I heard a voice, quiet and still—“Hush, be quiet. Be still and know . . . .” I listened, and in that silence I found a reverence for life that I hope only grows throughout the day. The quiet voice didn’t offer any startling revelations, but my basking in silence lent a kind of sacred feel to my morning. God was there. We had coffee. We sat quietly like two old friends for whom words would be a waste of effort. We silently toasted the beginning of a new day, and I felt as though the Almighty smiled at me. That stillness of that moment had created an almost “holy” space for the two of us to share. I know he was there. I long for a few more quiet moments with my Father and Friend.

Shhh . . .

Listen. . .

Was that the whisper of his voice?

Thanks for reading!  

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Monday, February 29, 2016


Borrowing Grace . . . Do You Hear Him?

Some recent reading prompted me to pen the following thoughts.  I am indebted to people like C. S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer for the thoughts below. They not only compelled my thinking, their writings provide the source of some of the "grace" I tend to "borrow" the most.  So, "borrowing grace" refers to receiving something of worth unexpectedly.  Here is today's "borrowed grace".

C. S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity:

The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.

Each morning there is a voice calling to us. Do we hear it? Oh there may well be a cacophany of voices in your mind/heart! I know there often is a raucous and rowdy group of them in mine!

"Don't forget your work! Don't forget that review you promised! Don't forget to play with your children! Don't forget to read your Bible!"

The voices vie for my attention even as my mind tries to shake the cobwebs of sleep and regain some semblance of focus. I hear them every morning. As Lewis notes, they rush at me.

What voices call us away from the Voice?

Do you hear him?

God is calling--"come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest."

"Take my burden upon you."

"All you like sheep have gone astray."

"Come to me, all who are burdened."

The imagery of coming out of the wind is a good one. Lewis reminds us to leave the wind of the voices calling us to busy-ness so that we can stop to listen to the one voice that matters.

God's call matters.

There is something about the call of God that transforms us when we hear it and respond. It isn't what we do, it is the very fact that God in his grace and kindness "called" us, spoke to us, singled us out, so to speak.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in The Cost of Discipleship:

The call of Jesus makes the disciple community not only the salt but also the light of the world: their activity is visible, as well as imperceptible. "You are the light." Once again it is not: "you are to be the light," they are already the light because Christ has called them. They are a light which is seen of men, they cannot be otherwise, and if they were it would be a sign that they had not been called. How impossible, how utterly absurd it would be for the disciples--these disciples, such men as these!--to try and become the light of the world! No. They are already the light and the call has made them so. Nor does Jesus say: "You have the light." The light is not an instrument which has been put into their hands, such as their preaching. It is the disciples themselves. By an amazing act of mercy, they are the light.

When God speaks, something changes. The very call to discipleship changes us.

As in the beginning when God simply spoke things into existence, his Word continues to breathe creative life into the heart of humanity (see John 1). His Word enlightens us, illuminates our dark lives, transforms us into the light of the world.

God speaks, something happens. Light comes into being. Darkness is confused, overcome, ruined.

God speaks, light breaks forth.

God calls, and we become salt and light. Every part of us becomes a testimony to the kindness of God. Every aspect of our life bleeds his kindness, his love, his grace, his mercy, his call.

God speaks, stuff happens.


Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Thank you for reading!

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Sunday, January 31, 2016


Paul's Parting Word: Fulfill Your Ministry

This is a sermon I preached to seminary students in the Spring of 2015 in a seminary chapel.  Here is the outline of the sermon.  I am indebted to many sources for the material below, and I wanted to make sure my students understand that these notes represent my reading of other sermons, some commentaries, and lexicons/dictionaries.  I hope it is a blessing to you.  

Paul’s Parting Word:  Fulfill your Ministry!

2 Timothy 4:1-5

1. Fulfill your ministry because Jesus is coming, and when he does, he will judge. 

“His Appearing”: The word epiphaneia could be used in two special ways. It was used for the obvious intervention of some god, but it was specially used in connection with the Roman Caesar. His ascension to the throne was his epiphaneia; but it was also used to describe his visit to any city or province. When the Emperor was due to visit any place, everything was put in proper order. Streets were swept and decorated and all work was brought up-to-date so that the town might be fit for Caesar's visit. So Paul says to Timothy: “You know what happens when any town is expecting the visit of the king; you are expecting the coming of Jesus Christ. Do your work in such a way that all things will be ready whenever he appears.” So we should so order our life that at any moment we are ready for the Christ's appearing.

Paul understands that God is omnipresent and we cannot escape him or his gaze, but soon we may well be in God's presence in a more literal way. It is as if Paul cautions us to remember that God is watching us. Jesus will one day return and then there will be judgment. Some will rise to be blessed and will receive the reward due them. Perhaps most urgent, when He returns it’s too late to do his work. What a sobering charge! One day we will all face the Lord Jesus Christ as a righteous judge. We will stand before Jesus one on one, and give an account for our lives. Romans 14:12 says, "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." What will we have to show for our time spent on earth as believers? What will we say? Will we be able to say anything, or simply bow our heads in shame? Every generation of Christian leaders faces that same prospect!

2. Fulfill your ministry by preaching/teaching: Proclaim the message, preach the Word—Paul refers back to chapter 3:12-17 here. Paul is telling Timothy to proclaim the inspired Scripture, but it is also to proclaim the message.  What message?  The one Paul has diligently passed on to Timothy.  There is a reminder of discipleship here.  Paul is writing a letter to his disciple, his son in the faith, and it is a last word or a dying wish if you will.  He is telling Timothy, “I entrusted these things to you, now you pass them on to others.”  2 Timothy 2:2 “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.”

A W Tozer: "I heard of one graduate of a theological school who determined to follow his old professor’s advice and preach the Word only. His crowds were average. Then one day a cyclone hit the little town and he yielded to the temptation to preach on the topic 'Why God Sent the Cyclone to Centerville.' The church was packed. This shook the young preacher and he went back to ask his professor for further advice in the light of what had happened. Should he continue to preach the Word to smaller crowds or try to fill his church by preaching sermons a bit more sensational? The old man did not change his mind. 'If you preach the Word,' he told the inquirer, 'you will always have a text. But if you wait for cyclones you will not have enough to go around.'”  

"Preach the word." The word "preach" means to herald, or proclaim publicly. Paul encourages Timothy to boldly and vigorously proclaim the Word of God. The Word of God, the Bible, Sound Doctrine, the kind of things you should be learning in seminary.  These are the things you need to entrust to others.  Let the text determine your message.  Stick to the context.  No need to try to help the text out with your own flourishes, simply let God’s Truth speak and let the Spirit convict. 

Persist in preaching the word: “in season and out of season” Verse 2 continues, " instant (ready and prepared) in season, out of season." It didn't matter if the time seemed favorable or not. It didn't matter if Timothy felt well or not. It didn't matter if there was a ready audience or a rebellious audience. It didn't matter if there was a big crowd or just a few. Timothy must always see himself on call, on duty, ready and prepared to serve, ready and prepared to share, the Word of God. 

Barclay says: The Christian teacher is to be urgent. The message he brings is literally a matter of life and death. The teachers who really get their message across are those who have the note of earnestness in their voice....Any man with the note of urgency in his voice demands, and will receive, a hearing from other men. The Christian teacher is to be persistent. He is to urge the claims of Christ "in season and out of season." As someone has put it: "Take or make your opportunity." 

The Greek here for “Be ready” means something like "Stand right up to it" (according to Spurgeon), be prepared, take a stand, carry on, stick to it. “In season and out” carries the idea of urgency.  We must do this urgently and at all times. We must preach when it is convenient or inconvenient, whether we feel like it or not! We should always be on duty and take advantage of every opportunity for service.

Teach with patience:  Timothy must preach the Word impartially.  We must preach to all equally. Verse 2 concludes, "..reprove, rebuke, encourage with all patience and doctrine." Timothy was to administer the Word of God as it was needed. The Word of God is described in the Bible as a fire, hammer, and a sword, and as such it has many applications! To some, it meant reproof. The word "reprove" means to correct, which involved pointing out their faults and errors. As pastor, Timothy must tell people where they have gone wrong, and what they need to do to correct it. To some it meant "rebuke." The word "rebuke" means to confront using sharp words with authority. It involves warning someone in order to prevent an action. As pastor, Timothy must not mince words when it came to turning people from sin and destructive behavior! This alone is enough to get most pastors of churches in America, fired (according to Leonard Ravenhill). If a pastor starts reproving and rebuking today, he may not last long. To some it means "exhortation" or encouragement. The word "exhort," means to comfort or encourage. Once someone is rebuked, the pastor must come along side of him or her in love, with encouraging words.

Timothy is to do all this with patience and sound teaching/doctrine. Timothy's words must be rooted and saturated with the truth of God's Word.  “Patience” here means “longsuffering” or “endurance” or some such.  The idea is that we are to fulfill our ministry of proclaiming God’s Word/Jesus with an eye toward the long haul.  This is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  Isaiah 6:11-13—"How long, Lord?" And He replied: “Until cities lie in ruins without inhabitants, houses are without people, the land is ruined and desolate, 12 and the LORD drives the people far away, leaving great emptiness in the land. 13 Though a tenth will remain in the land, it will be burned again. Like the terebinth or the oak, which leaves a stump when felled, the holy seed is the stump.” Keep proclaiming God’s message until God tells us to stop or until God finishes his work. We do not determine the “fullness of time,” that is God’s job. We should simply obey. The key to success as a disciple of Christ is simple—obey. Fulfill your ministry even if the crowds leave. 

3. Fulfill your ministry even if everyone runs from it:  Paul does not minimize our difficulties. He comes right out and warns us that we may well encounter some very frustrating conditions as we fulfill our ministry. We will attempt to make God’s Word known with all our might, and like Isaiah we will find that people aren’t really interested in that. They may find somebody who suits them better. They may complain about sound doctrine. Eventually they may also believe anything but the truth. Remember that this section of 2 Timothy comes directly after Paul's reminder that all Scripture being inspired. In other words, people may well reject the truth.  It is not always enjoyable to hear.

The phrase "itching ears" in verse 3b, speaks of people who are more interested in being titillated, excited with pleasure, than being set straight. They will seek entertainment instead of enlightenment. People will often want to hear something that is positive instead of a message that convicts or speaks truth. “Itching ears” here has the idea of “hearing” that focuses on pleasure. Like my dog loves her ears rubbed, sometimes people will not tolerate truth. They will want to have their ears rubbed. Paul tells us that Biblical teaching and preaching often involves telling people what they do not want to hear, and making demands that they do not want to follow.

4. Fulfill your ministry with a clear head, endurance, and evangelism: If we’re going to attempt this, we must be personally fit for it: Be clear headed or sober minded. Know what we may face.  Be aware of the potential problems and make up our minds to endure. We should know by now that suffering may be part of the call. Regardless, do your job in spite of these things. Yes, it really is that simple.

Stay calm, collected, and focused in all situations. Verse 5 begins, "But watch thou in all things." The word "watch" means to remain calm and collected. It has the sense of being in control or temperate. There was once a Dry Idea deodorant commercial that said, "Never let them see you sweat." Unfortunately a pastor is never afforded the luxury of losing it. He must always stay in touch with his call and the expectations of his office.  

Always be ready to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Verse 5 continues, " the work of an evangelist." The word "evangelist" speaks of the bearer of good news! The "good news" of course is the gospel of Jesus Christ! Timothy was to share the message of the gospel at all times with all people. Timothy's preaching must always point people to Jesus Christ! Peter Wagner gives three parts to evangelism:  Presence, Proclamation, and Persuasion. We are to be living, breathing representatives of Jesus.  Serve others in word and in deed, that is true evangelism.

So, we are called to fulfill our calling and ministry. Verse 5 concludes, ". . . make full proof (make the most) of your ministry." The apostle Paul was telling Timothy to fulfill his ministry, to do all that God had called him to do. Timothy was no Paul. There was only one Paul. Timothy was gifted differently and given a different assignment. He was to fulfill his own ministry. The same is true for us.  As my mentor Dr. Bill Lane used to say, "Never covet another person's gift, and never despise your own."  Whether we are teaching a Sunday school class, working in a small group, greeting visitors with a warm smile and welcome hand shake, or preaching to thousands, we are to fulfill our ministry in our own way and with God's guidance.  We are not to endeavor to be "like" another minister, we should strive to be like Jesus in our service to others.  We must each fulfill our own calling.  What has God called you to do?  Do it with all your might!  Complete it as a humble servant looking for his king's approval. 

This solemn charge given by Paul needs to burn within each of us as believers in Jesus Christ. We are living in the "last days." These are "perilous times." We never know just when we will be called home, or when Jesus Christ will return to catch us out. Are you committed? If Jesus returned today, would He find you faithfully and effectively serving Him? How are we doing?  What are we building for Jesus?  What is our call, and how are we doing in fulfilling it for Christ's sake?  

It may be as simple as completing the degree to which God has called you, or writing that paper, or taking that test, or loving your neighbor or spouse or child . . . it may be something like sharing the love of God with someone who has been overlooked and denigrated . . . it may simply mean doing the right thing when nobody is looking.  Whatever it is, let us hear the great apostle to the Gentiles reminding us. . . Fulfill your ministry.  Finish what he has called you to do.  Be faithful, and get it done!  

Thanks for reading! 

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