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Monday, January 16, 2017

More On Visitation Ministry

208 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 2Ti 1:16-18, “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, (Oh knee sif' er ous) for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day--and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus. (2 Tim 1:15-18) Onesiphorus. I wonder why we don't here more sermons about this man and his ministry. He certainly set the bar high for visitation ministry! He was not a hit and miss visitor to Paul during his incarceration, he OFTEN visited him, refreshing Paul's spirits! In addition, he didn't come into the prison with a paper bag over his face, as if he we ashamed to be seen with Paul. He was always genuinely glad to see him and had no qualms about being associated with him. Depending on the crime, sometimes this can be difficult in prison ministry. The prisoner is quite aware of the shame associated with his crime, whatever it may be. He doesn't need his visitors to add to it. Remember you are not embracing the sin, only the sinner who is a soul that matters to God! Go with a heart that is glad to connect with this person whom Christ died for on the cross! Then we read of Onesiphorus' dogged efforts to visit with Paul! He sought him out very zealously and found him. Sometimes in prison, ministry, there can be very frustrating bureaucratic channels that make it difficult to visit, perhaps Onesiphorus ran into a few of these himself, but he persevered, he kept at it until he found Paul and was able to refresh him! Thank you Onesiphorus for being a model for visitation ministry! Let your visits with Paul be an example for those so called today, that they too may doggedly pursue opportunities to gladden the hearts of the prisoner or the infirmed for the purpose of refreshment.....often! Allow me to let you in on a little secret in the matter of a visitation ministry, more often than not it is the visitor who comes away refreshed!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Building Your Herd

Going through an old journal of mine, I found this entry from November of 2008: Tozer has said, “Proper and sound teaching of the Word of God will awaken desire within the one being taught to move forward in spiritual adventure with Christ.” We study passages in the Greek to find out what they mean in English and we say, “Isn't that fine!” And that's all we do about it! Tozer says our spiritual growth comes to a screeching halt whenever we hear a spiritual truth and refuse to act on it. Maybe it's a sin we need to confess, but refuse to agree with God that it is a sin. Maybe it's some business we need to straighten out between God and ourselves, or between ourselves and others. Maybe it some act of obedience that we stubbornly refuse to perform. Refusal to act on revealed truth is a recipe for chronic discouragement! It is accepting mediocrity and stunted spiritual growth as the norm. There is an old Hindu saying that goes like this, “You who are busy learning texts and not living them are like the man counting other peoples cattle without having a single heifer of his own.” Maybe it's time for each of us to start building our own herd....one heifer at a time as we act on what the Word of God is speaking to us. May the Holy Spirit open our ears to the Word of God and then move our members to respond accordingly. Just one word of caution as you build your herd. Don't go tooting your own horn about it! Remember God owns all the cattle (Ps 50:10) Any increase is His doing not yours!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Cause That Refreshes

208 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 2Ti 1:16-18, “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, (Oh knee sif' er ous) for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day--and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus. (2 Tim 1:15-18) Onesiphorus. I wonder why we don't here more sermons about this man and his ministry. He certainly set the bar high for visitation ministry! He OFTEN refreshed Paul while he was in prison! We aren't told how often, but we can be sure that Onesipherous was a frequent visitor to the dungeon which held Paul. In his visits he refreshed Paul. The word means to cool off. That doesn't mean that he dumped a bucket of cold water over Paul when he visited him, but rather, like an ice cold glass of lemonade on a hot and humid day, Onesiphorous brought relief to the parched soul of Paul! One can almost hear the guard announcing to Paul, “Onesipherous is here to see you,” and Paul's soul leaping for joy at the thought of another refreshing visit from this friend! Do you have a ministry of visitation? Sometimes we are thrown into such a ministry when illness strikes a friend or loved one, or when an acquaintance or relative finds themselves behind prison doors. Before you enter that room or that cell, ask yourself what you can do to bring refreshment to that person. Don't come walking in filled with gloom and doom, or a list of sins that you think may have put them in their predicament! Put a smile on your face and be genuinely glad to see that person. It will go a long way in the area of refreshment! More importantly, pray up before you get there! Ask God how you might refresh that person! Maybe it's a matter of finding Bible passages that ooze refreshment! Read the 23rd Psalm for starters! Let them know that God loves them and that you love them and of course be prepared to pray with them! Need encouragement before embarking? How about reading this portion of 2 Timothy for a refresher course on conducting visitation! For starters, purpose to refresh....... often!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Compassion and Mercy of Onesiphorus

207 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 2Ti 1:15-18, “This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. 16 The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; 17 but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. 18 The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day--and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus. (2 Tim 1:15-18) Three names. Two mentioned in a bad light and one in a good light. We know nothing further of Phygellus and Hermogenes than this mention here in 2 Timothy. Timothy was very much aware of these two men and all the others who were members of the Asian church who had turned away from Paul in his hour of need. This is not Asia as we know it today but rather that part of Asia where Paul ministered and included areas such as Ephesus and Galatia. It's not that all the churches in these areas had turned against Paul, it was that those members who were in Rome at the time of Paul's imprisonment and upcoming execution turned away from him. I can think of no better comparison than that of the disciples who scattered like sheep when Jesus was arrested and of course the blatant denial of Peter. Fear and shame drove those disciples and Peter, and fear and shame likely drove Phygellus and Hermogenes. But look what drove Onesiphorus..... compassion and mercy! Like the Levite and the priest who hurried by the wounded man in the ditch, Phygellus and Hermogenes turned their back on the chained and isolated Paul , but Onesiphorus, like the Good Samariatan, looked for ways to refresh Paul in his dilemma! We are in no position to judge Phygellus, Hermogenes, and the other Asian Christians in Rome. They are not mentioned again in Scripture, but we can hope that Jesus came to them as He came to Peter and those who fled and restored them In the meantime, let us ask the Lord to help us be like Onesiphorus and when we see a brother or sister in duress, that God would conquer our fears and shame and move us to compassionate action!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Sketch of What the Apostles Handed Down To Us

206 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 2Ti 1:13, 14, “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (2 Tim 1:13,14) It's all about Jesus and the Gospel and Paul makes that point clear here to young Timothy. Tap into the power of the Holy Spirit Timothy! Use that power to not deviate from the pattern of sound words that Paul has handed down to the church through his own encounters with Jesus and the Word! With faith in Christ and the fruit of love that comes with it, stick to the guns of the gospel and the doctrine of Christ! To be sure, there would be attacks on the doctrine of Christ. There have been attacks on the doctrine of Christ, and there will continue to be attacks on the doctrine of Christ. So Paul reminds Timothy to hold fast (don't let it get away from you) the pattern ( the word means sketch or outline) of the sound (perfectly healthy) words that Timothy has heard from Paul. What is this sketch of doctrine that is so important to Timothy and the church? It is the creed, concerning what we must believe about Jesus. This creed of the early church was sketched out for Timothy in 1Ti 3:16 “And without controversy (don't argue about this) great is the mystery of godliness: (Great is the mystery of Christ!) And here it is. Here is the sketch! “God was manifested in the flesh, (Immanuel, God with us, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary) Justified in the Spirit, (By His death at the hands of Pontius Pilate and subsequent resurrection from the dead! Seen by angels, (Seen by His messengers, the Apostles and over 500 other witnesses) Preached among the Gentiles. Believed on in the world, This risen Christ would appear to His messengers and give them the charge to preach the Gospel to the world, and then He was received up in glory.” This was the pattern, the sketch that the church must adhere to as it concerns Jesus. There has been some filling in of that sketch through the years, (what the church now calls the Apostles Creed or the even more detailed Nicene Creed) but the basic doctrine concerning Christ has not changed and must not change. This sketch goes a long way in defense of the Gospel from false teachers, and we in the church ought to remind ourselves of it often and hold fast to it!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Read the Book of Revelation! We Win!

205 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 2Ti 1:12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” Paul, is not ashamed of being a follower of Jesus and he is not ashamed of his calling. He has a distinct advantage over many because of his face to face encounters with Jesus. He says here “I know whom I have believed,” and the word “know” here means to take in with one's eyes, it speaks of a personal encountering. He knows Jesus just like you know people in your circle of acquaintances. We are all familiar with his personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus that resulted in his conversion, but I also want to talk about Paul's encounter with Jesus when he was taken up to the third heaven....the very throne room of God! We read about it in 2Co 12:2-5, “I know a man in Christ (he's speaking about himself) who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows-- 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.” We aren't told what Paul witnessed in heaven, but I think we can get a clue if we read the throne vision in the Book of Revelation beginning in chapter 4. The bottom line of that vision is Christ wins! Christ has won! The Lamb of God is victorious! Paul saw the victory! And therefore was able to boast in his infirmities. He was able to handle all that came his way because he knew with certainty the end! And so he confidently states he knows that Jesus is able to keep what had been committed to Paul (the Gospel) to The Day! The Gospel will prevail! You and I likely won't get a glimpse of this victory in person right now, but we can get it through the Revelation of John. No wonder the Re 1:3 says, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near.” Are you experiencing trial? Infirmity? Tribulation? Read the Book of Revelation. You don't have to understand it all. All you need to garner from it is Christ wins! Persevere in Christ to the end and you win too!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Persevering Shamelessly

205 - Today's Prime Time Devo comes from 2Ti 1:12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Paul, who was appointed by God to serve as a preacher, apostle, and teacher to the Gentiles, knew going in that he would suffer persecution and trial because of this appointment. Ananais was told to relay that information to Paul shortly after his conversion: Ac 9:15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 "For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake." Sitting in a dungeon, waiting for your execution by the state, being counted as a criminal, certainly could bring on feelings of shame, and doubt. Would you want to be associated with such a person? Would you want to be associated with a faith that is deemed worthy of such a cruel death? There would be no public outcry to save Paul, in fact as he writes this letter, all but Luke have abandoned him. Paul had the option to renounce his faith at any time and be spared this shameful, painful death! But he didn't! One can't help but think of Jesus. Also suffering a shameful death at the hands of the state as He hung without mercy on a cross between to common thugs. There was no public outcry. He was abandoned, just a few concerned friends and His mother at the foot of the cross to watch Him suffer and die. In fact, the public cried out “Crucify Him!” He's a fraud! A phony! Mt 27:42 "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. Where's your Jesus now Paul? Let me ask you point blank, “where is your Jesus now in your own time of trial? Where will your Jesus be in your coming tribulations?” And the answer that Paul gives is the same you and I need to remember. “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”Paul was intimately familiar with Jesus and he believed that Jesus had the power to keep his faith intact until that Day that the gates of paradise would be opened to him! Paul knew that his agonies now are temporary, and in persevering in the faith, no matter the perceived shame of it would result in eternal bliss! May God give us the same convictions as we suffer while we travel this sod on our way to our eternal home!