by Susan Sampson

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  As I asked the Lord for His help in writing this email, knowing that I cannot do it apart from His grace, I asked Him to show me what He would want me to write to you.  This verse exhorts us to do our best in rightly handling the word of truth.  Stephen, in Acts 7, is a perfect example.  He did not shrink back in fear of man.  He boldly proclaimed the truth, the gospel.  He was a disciple of Jesus.  Acts 6:5 describes him, “a man FULL of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”  Acts 6:8 describes him as “FULL of grace and power.”  The word “full” immediately stands out to me.  How did he get full?  How do we get full?  Stephen was a disciple of Jesus.  We too are disciples of Jesus.

In order to be full of faith, the Holy Spirit, grace and power we must first be emptied of self.  Jesus did this very thing.  Philippians 2:7 in the New American Standard translation says, ” but (He) “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”  Paul is calling us to flee our youthful passions.  He calls us to “depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19) and to cleanse ourselves from what is dishonorable (2 Tim. 2:21).  He is calling us to repentance.  If I am to flee my sins, I must turn from them.  I must turn to Jesus by faith.  I must go a new direction and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.

This week I had to confess to the Lord my unrepentant heart.  I do not want to turn.  I do not want to flee my youthful passions.  There are several that I still want to cling to in many ways- laziness being just one.  So what hope do I have?  None apart from Christ.  He is our only hope.  Praise God He has given us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26).  He has given us the most precious gift we will ever receive, our salvation.  Jesus became sin for us so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

We must go by faith to the only One who can fill us with His Spirit, grace and power.  Practically speaking this means going to the Lord in prayer and spending time with Him in His word.  Laboring in God’s word.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  Romans 12:2 says, “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”  Our flesh wants to be filled with the things of this world.  Our flesh cannot please God.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). 

My prayer is that this week, everyone one of us would get ALL our homework done.  That we would in fact do our best to rightly handle the word of truth.  The Lord has given each of us a precious gift in this study – an opportunity to be transformed by the renewal of our minds, an opportunity to be filled with His Spirit, grace and power.  An opportunity to know Jesus and become more like Him. An opportunity to proclaim the gospel with our lives.   What will we choose?  What will our priorities be this week?  More sleep?  More t.v.?  More computer?  More shopping?  More exercising?  More cleaning our houses? “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).

We are the Lord’s servants.  He is our Master.  Will we spend time with our Master or our flesh?  Will we serve the world or the One who saved our lives?  I imagine for those who love to cook, if they had an opportunity to spend time with and learn from a master chef they would jump at the chance.  You would make it a priority.  Ladies, our Master rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13).  He drew us up from the pit of destruction (Psalm 40:2).  He demonstrated and proved His great love for us at the cross.  While we were still His enemies Christ died for us.  There is no greater love.

We ARE in a battle against the world, the enemy and our flesh.  May the Lord give us the grace to be good soldiers and do our best for the One who gave us His all.  This week Laurie reminded us that our greatest opposition is the enemy within.  Let us ask for the grace to FLEE the flesh; FIX our eyes on Christ; FOLLOW God’s word; and go FORWARD in the Spirit.  When we do this we will be like Stephen.  We will be FULLof faith, the Holy Spirit, grace and power.

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'” (John 7:38).

by Angie Thomas
As I prayed and asked the Lord this week what He would have me share with you, He kept impressing on my heart His great love for each of you. His love that is way beyond emotional sentimentalism, but is a pure, rich, deep, abiding, sacrificial love. He desires for you to know this love in the deepest crevices of your heart and mind, that you might find comfort and rest in this love when the world presses in on you from every side, and when you see the gravity of your sin.
I have to confess that I have been struggling this week with the idea of how deeply God loves me.  I see my sin and short-comings so clearly and it grieves my heart. As I listened to a sermon this morning recounting Jesus’s horrific and sacrificial death on the cross, I have to admit it is hard for me to comprehend. Why would a perfect, sinless man suffer and die for an obstinate, sinful, and prideful wretch such as I? Romans 5:6-8 provides our answer, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

This love should COMPLETELY transform every area of our lives. He desires for us to walk out our faith with fear and trembling, relying on His grace and strength to sanctify us. But in order to to do that, we have to be assured of His deep, deep love for us in our frailty and weaknesses.  Comprehending that love is what enables us to take the drastic measures needed to cut of the arm or gouge out the eye of our sin.  As we put to death the flesh of pride, a critical spirit, self-autonomy, worry, anxiety, or fear of man, we will know and experience our risen Lord in so much more deeper and intimate ways.  I love the way Hebrews 12:1b-2b describes this so powerfully,  “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” The only way we can do this is by fixing our eyes on the cross, constantly being reminded of His great love for us!

So, I pray that tonight or sometime this week you will make a date with your Heavenly Husband and pour out your heart to Him about your sin and struggles and then use your bible app and do a keyword search for “love” and record some of the amazing verses that describe God’s love for us.  May the truth of His word wash over you gently, yet powerfully and may it truly break your heart.

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3).  I have to say that I don’t particularly like the current trend when people say “Really?!”  But that is exactly what I found myself saying to the Lord. I thought to myself  “I’m not a soldier, an athlete OR a hard-working farmer as Paul describes, I’m just a wife with 3 children who enjoys flannel pj’s and a cup of Earl Grey tea.”

But here’s the truth.  God’s word is true, and in His word He is clearly calling me and all His children to be His soldiers.  Our daily circumstances are in fact the battleground as A.W. Pink wrote. And He is sanctifying us by the Holy Spirit who dwells within each believer to fight the good fight of faith.  So the truth I must confess is that my flesh doesn’t want to be a soldier. I don’t want to be on the battlefield.  I want comfort and ease, I want my pj’s and Earl Grey. Honestly, this is the battle that rages within––my “old girl” and “new girl.” The battle I fight every day by God’s grace–– Give over to my flesh and the “old girl” or put my flesh to death and pick up my cross to follow Christ.

So I confess my unbelief––I am prideful and unwilling to give up my comfort. Immediately, I need to stop and I need to cry out to the Lord to ask for His forgiveness and His help.  Asking Him to strengthen me by His grace. Asking Him for the grace to believe His word and submit to His authority and take His truth to my heart, coming up under His truth and living it out each and every day.

Friends, the Lord has a call on our lives. Our lives are not our own. In fact, we have been bought with the spilled and precious blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The call is to live for the One who died for us.  He died “that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:15). 

And we must understand, in our walk with the Lord there will be suffering. As I continue to think about all this means, it occurs to me that suffering is a key component, if not the key to gospel living.  In order to live out the gospel, we must die to ourselves. We must crucify our flesh. We must “endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim 2:10).  But we cannot endure on our own.  We are weak and unable, but I am so thankful that His grace is not based on my merit.  Paul writes in Col. 1:11, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.”  The power to endure, the ability to endure comes from God alone.

Without suffering there is no gospel.  Without death there is no life.  Christ came, suffered, died, was buried, and rose again.  He suffered on my behalf, He suffered and bore the wrath of God because of my sins. Without the suffering and death of our Redeemer, we would all be destined for eternal damnation.  His suffering was His gift to us. We can then rejoice in our own suffering as our response of gratitude to our Savior. We can be thankful that when we suffer for the gospel we see a small glimpse of what He endured for each of us out of His great love.

God’s ways are not our ways.  He is God and we are not. Therefore the truth is suffering has purpose. Suffering is a blessing. The Lord uses it to bring us closer to Himself.  When things are going well I am always tempted to be more independent and not see my need for the Lord.  In His love and care for me, the Lord allows suffering to draw me back to Him. In suffering I see more clearly the reality that I am powerless and He is all powerful.

You can’t go into battle without your armor, and because of His death on the cross He have been given access to all we need. By grace through faith we put on His armor. Ask the Lord to show you what practical ways you can be more dedicated, devoted, diligent and disciplined in your walk/run with the Lord.  May He give us all understanding in everything.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  To him be the dominion forever and ever.  Amen” (1 Peter 5:10).