Sunday’s Coming!

maxresdefault.jpg

Pastor S. M. Lockridge (1913-2000), who pastored Calvary Baptist Church, a prominent African-American congregation in San Diego, California, is credited with originating the phrase, “It’s Friday—but Sunday’s Coming!” These words are the perfect answer for Passion Week. During that week Jesus was abandoned, rejected, tortured and mercilessly crucified. His body was laid in a borrowed tomb, but was gloriously raised from the grave on Easter Sunday.

The true meaning of Easter and the resurrection of Christ is a problem for some people. But for me, believing in the actual, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was never difficult. I cannot recall ever not believing it. The human impossibility of it; the uniqueness of it; and the implications of it, were not always comprehended. But I just figured, if God could make a living man from a pile of dirt, how hard would it be to restore life to someone who had died? Child-like faith is a wonderful thing!

From the strictly human viewpoint, however, death has a cold finality about it. As far as can be seen from the physical side, death is the end. It is a period, not a comma. When we stand helplessly on the sideline as death snuffs out life, it reminds us that giving and restoring life is far beyond any human power. Those obvious facts make the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave all the more important.

When that Sunday finally came, initial reactions to the news of Christ’s resurrection revealed not many were expecting it. The women who first came to the empty tomb, “found the stone rolled away” but were “perplexed” about it, until an angel told them, “He is not here, but He has risen” (Luke 24:2-6). The empty tomb surprised this sweet ladies auxiliary.

When Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James told the apostles they had seen the risen Christ, “these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them” (Luke 24:11). It was not pagan unbelievers who thought the news of the empty tomb “nonsense,” but the apostles of Christ.

Later in the day on Easter Sunday, when two disciples on the road to Emmaus encountered an unrecognized Jesus, they admitted their disappointment at the crucifixion of Christ. They acknowledged that some had seen the empty tomb, but they were puzzled by it all. You can feel the pain and sadness in their words: “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Their confidence had been shattered by His death on the cross. Now they were at a complete loss. The Lord’s words of rebuke must have stung when He said, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:25, 26).

Despite the doubting disciples, the Lord Jesus made five appearances to a great number of followers on Easter Sunday, which convinced them He was alive. Later, Jesus appeared to hundreds of followers, as Luke noted, “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

From that day until this, the good news of the gospel always includes the news of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). As evangelists and missionaries carried the message to people in the first century, the resurrection of Christ from the dead was always an essential part. Without the resurrection of Jesus, the gospel is not good news. As the gospel spread from Asia to Europe, the reaction of people to the resurrection continued to be mixed. It was gladly received by Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:38-43), as well as by many Gentiles in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:28-33, 38, 39), but was ridiculed by some Athenians on Mars’ Hill (Acts 17:18, 30-34). There, the inclusion of the resurrection in the gospel, got mixed reviews: “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this’” (Acts 17:32). Thankfully, despite the ridicule, some believed and were saved (verse 34).

What are the implications of Christ’s resurrection?

If Christ was not raised from the dead:

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised” (1 Cor. 15:13).

“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain” (verse 14).

“And your faith also is vain” (verse 14).

“Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God” (verse 15).

“If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless” (verse 17).

“And you are still in your sins” (verse 17).

“Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (verse 18).

If Christ was raised from the dead:

The resurrection of Christ declared Jesus to be God’s Son with power (Romans 1:4).

Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all believers (Romans 8:11).

His resurrection gives His followers living hope! Believers have been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3, 4).

“It’s Friday—but Sunday’s Coming” reminds us that, no matter how gloomy things appear to be right now—Sunday’s coming! For Jesus, the agony of Passion Week ended in ultimate victory. His victory over death and the grave means that every believer in Christ will also share His triumph through eternal life He gives.

As we remember and celebrate His resurrection, let us rejoice that, “He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:6). Thank God—Sunday’s coming!

Active Listening

listening.jpg

“Do you hear me?” My mother asked me that question a thousand times. Looking back, I am sure it was rhetorical. She really didn’t expect an answer—what she wanted was obedience. My problem was not poor hearing, but neglectful listening. I needed to be an active hearer.

I find it is easy to hear, but hard to listen. It is effortless to talk, but difficult to act. It is painless to dream, but costly to perform. James summed it up best: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was” (James 1:22-24).

In truth, many people who claim Christ are hearing, but not doing, the will of God—they are discussing, but not performing the work of God—and are quoting but not obeying the Word of God. If this is true, they face the worst kind of deception—self-deception! One who deceives himself thinks he is something he is not. He is deluding himself, or as the King James Version renders it, you are “deceiving your own selves.”

To be a “doer” of the word means you will do what it says, and not merely hear. If we hear without doing—listen without obeying—we will not be pleasing to God. Instead, we will be fooling ourselves into believing that we are pleasing Him.

Putting it another way, some may think they are Christians, when they have never actually trusted Christ as their Savior. That is the worst kind of self-deception, because it will impact their eternity. Others may think they are serving God by showing up, but are actually doing nothing for Him. John wrote, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). When people do what Jesus commands, they show that they know Him.

Some people talk a good game, but never get on the field. “In all labor there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23). Someone described a football game as twenty-two people on the field badly needing rest being watched by seventy thousand people in the stands badly needing exercise. For most of us football is a spectator sport, but Christian service should never be like that. We must get into the game and get involved in the action, doing our part and willingly paying the price.

The fact is, we are saved to serve. In Ephesians 2:10, Paul wrote that the Ephesians were “His workmanship” – God’s masterpiece – “created in Christ Jesus” – born again by grace through faith in Christ Jesus – “for good works” – deeds and actions of service – “which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” – following His plan for our lives of ministry for Him. We are saved apart from works of any kind—unto works of every kind—for His glory.

On one occasion, the Lord challenged His disciples: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). It is one thing to call Jesus your Lord, but quite another to live with Him as Lord of your life, your decisions, your habits, your words and actions. If we call Jesus, Lord, we need to know Him and obey Him.

In January, 1933, during the midst of the Great Depression, a lady found this poem pasted to the wall of an old farm house. She was so impressed by its truth she copied it for each of her seven children. This powerful principle of life is still true today.

Someday!

There’s a loving letter I mean to send,

There’s a visit I mean to pay;

There’s a careless habit I hope to mend,

When I get the time, someday.

 

I will carry flowers to the sick and sad;

I will seek for those who stray;

You may trace my steps by the hearts made glad,

When I get the time, someday.

 

There’s a dusty Bible I mean to read;

There’s an hour I’ll keep to pray;

And I’ll turn each dream to a golden deed,

When I get the time, someday.

 

So we have thought and so we have said,

Yet, how sad it is to relate—

That, busy with less important things;

We waited until too late—

 

We never will get the time, dear friend,

To be kind along life’s way,

Unless thoughtfully and prayerfully,

We make the most of today!

To become a Christian, we must actually repent of our sins and trust Christ, inviting Him into our lives. To do God’s will, we must actually do something! It is never enough to hear; not enough to wish; nor merely to talk or think—we must do His will and work! To actually do God’s will calls for faith, trust, prayer, commitment, action, diligence, endurance and faithfulness.

Why not make it your goal to hear and do the will of God in your life? Begin by receiving Jesus as your Savior. Follow up by joining a church where you can learn what God’s Word says and can surround yourself with like-minded believers. Then put your faith into practice by serving God where you live and work.

I wonder if God is not raising His voice to us, as my mom did years ago when she asked, “Do you hear me?” I hope you will be an active listener by receiving Him and doing His will, while you have opportunity, today!

 

 

 

Porch Lessons

Clements 20190403.jpg

You can learn a lot about life sitting on a porch. Before the invention of television, radio and air-conditioning, people spent a lot of time on the porch. The porch was the place for family get-togethers, quiet conversation, observation, shelling peas, and whittling.

Last year, I had a medical procedure that required me to basically sit and do nothing, lift nothing, strain at nothing—mainly vegetate—while recuperating, for a whole week. It was doctor-ordered and wife-enforced. So, I planted myself on my favorite porch, with a beautiful view of Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and counted the days before I could return to life.

As I looked on from the porch, sometimes the skies dropped lovely, steady, needed rain. Other times I watched the sun come up, race across the sky, then sink in the west with golden orange rays reflecting off the water. Some days seemed three days long. But, my wife Pat, sat with me enjoying the sights and sounds of God’s creation at work, as I tried not to ruin it for her with my complaints.

So, what can you learn about life sitting on a porch?

One, you learn that life goes on, even without you. No one is irreplaceable or indispensable and most of us may not even be that essential. Though your life is unique and valuable to God, and you are the only one of you He ever made, not everything you do is that important. The universe does not revolve around you. The sun will rise tomorrow and no matter what happens today, life will go on. Some day, after you make your final exit from this life, the world won’t stop.

Two, on the porch you learn that the people who really matter in your life are those who come closest when you are in need—your spouse, your children, your church family and close friends. The first institution God made was marriage and the home, followed immediately by children and the family.

With good reason, Paul wrote that if a man is not a good husband and father; he is not qualified to be a pastor, deacon, or church leader (1 Timothy 3:1-13). Howard Hendricks used to say that means if a man cannot lead in a limited sphere, don’t enlarge it! On the porch you learn that no people are as important as your family. For most of us, the greatest joys in life are connected with family. Nothing comes close to that, and no amount of fame, fortune or success can ever replace that.

Another institution God planned for your wellbeing was the church. When you are in need of comfort, encouragement or care, that group of people you meet weekly will come to your aid. Years ago, a pastor sarcastically wrote: “You better get to know Pastor What’s-His-Name, because Billy Graham will not preach your funeral!”

Paul compared the church to a body with many functioning parts, of which, if you belong, you are one. Church members care for one another, and “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:26-27). A true church is a group of sympathetic, empathetic people, who serves Jesus and ministers to people.

Three, you also learn that you should focus your life more on things that are eternal, and less on things that are temporal. Most highly desired things in this life that people strain and strive for are just fluff, pith and chaff. Much of what we think we want is fleeting fantasy. It does not satisfy and quickly disappears.

However, a life focused on things of eternal value is a life full, pleasing and well lived. So, what is eternal that should become your focus? Only two things you can see with your eyes are eternal: the Word of God and people. Learning and living by God’s Word as you love, interact with and minister to people, results in a life of eternal value.

Four, on the porch, you realize that the really wonderful and memorable times in life always gravitate around needs. With all that time to think, I was reminded that through four decades of pastoral ministry people did not remember the sermons I preached, but never forgot the love, concern and care I showed in their hour of need. One of the greatest joys in life has been those times ministering to the hurting, weeping with the broken, while praying and loving them through tragedies.

What a great privilege we have to share our lives and love with people. Mark Hall of Casting Crowns wrote and sang this chorus in the song “Love them Like Jesus:”

“You don’t need the answers

To all of life’s questions

Just know that He loves them

Stay by their side

And love them like Jesus,

Love them like Jesus”

The good news is that you do not need an excuse to spend quality time on your porch. Occasional porch time may be the most productive time you spend. In fact, you really don’t even need a porch. Stop and consider your life. Settle down to the real values in life and toss aside vain pursuits. Spend time in His Word then share its truths with others. Porch time is not wasted time!

So I encourage you to make time this summer to just sit on your porch. Be open to the surprises of God and the goodness of life that comes to bless you. Surround yourself with loved ones and see what God does in your heart on your porch.

Precious Collectibles

collectibles2.JPG

Folks collect the strangest things. People treasure antique furniture, fine art, books, depression glass, china, comic books, toys, vinyl records, classic cars, VHS tapes, crystal, jewelry, ceramics, thimbles, trading cards, balls, coins, stamps and coffee mugs. Others accumulate stranger things like rocks, driftwood, bottles, marbles, matchbooks and seashells. I knew a man in Sheridan, Arkansas, who kept his toenail clippings in a container by the fireplace—strange things indeed.

There are two reasons people hold onto collectible items—they are either valuable, or they are memorable. Some things have financial worth—others have emotional connections. In truth, a collectible item is any object that has intrinsic value or interest to a collector.

One year, my aunt, Lucille Franklin, from Malvern, Arkansas, gave us five or six old plastic toy cars to place around our tree at Christmas time. Considering our children and grandchildren, Pat and I thought they would enjoy playing with them. There was a Railway Express truck, like my Uncle Roy used to drive, a red 1957 Chevrolet like they used to own, a 50’s model pickup truck, a vintage sports car and others. For several years we enjoyed displaying them at Christmas. My grandsons loved to run them, and crash them, up and down our hallway when our family got together. That fun lasted—until I learned how valuable those old toys were! One old plastic toy car was valued at $800, and all the rest were worth between $400 and $500 dollars each. So, our two-person family leadership council went into executive session and unanimously decided to leave the antiques in the attic, and replace them with newer, neater and cheaper playthings. It was perfect, the old toys were preserved, and my grandsons never knew the difference.

Many things people collect have no monetary value. In every room of our house Pat and I display valuable items, collected over 50 years of marriage, 5 children, 12 grandchildren and thousands of miles traveled. Most of it is worthless to anyone but us. We have rocks from Mount Sinai, Golgotha, the Sea of Galilee, as well as volcanic rocks from Arizona, and precious (to us) stones our children picked up at the Russian River, Jamestown, Pike’s Peak and Gatlinburg. We treasure seashells from the Tasman and Coral Seas, Talikud Island, Vanuatu, Guadalcanal, San Gregorio, Fort Morgan and Camp Lejeune Marine Base. We are the proud owners of a Maasai fly swatter from Kenya that is actually a cow’s tail. Another prized possession is a badly worn trace chain from a storm cellar door that my grandfather held during rough storms in Lipan, Texas. These are all precious collectibles.

So, what transforms worthless objects into precious collectibles? The answer is—memories! Tied to each rock, shell, card, or stick is a unique memory. What makes them special are the precious people and events connected with these objects. The person who held the trace chain, the child who found the precious rock, the people who walked the beach with you searching for beautiful shells—these memories make precious collectibles. The valuable object triggers the precious memory.

This is a great reminder of what we are to God. Our intrinsic value is that we were made in God’s image and were redeemed by Christ’s blood. Peter reminds us that, “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). God places such high value on people that, “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Because of our sin, we deserve death, but because of God’s love, He offers the gift of life—“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

We are somewhat worthless to most people except our Savior and those who love us. But He made us and redeemed us to glorify and serve Him forever. In that, we find our true value. When we come to Christ, trusting Him to save us, He makes us brand new! “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When God looks at one of His redeemed people, He sees a masterpiece in the making. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

In Christ, we are loved, saved, redeemed and made precious. Someone said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that is true. When God looks at us, he sees our true worth, our importance and our future—because He sees His Son in us.

About His people, God said, “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels” (Malachi 3:17). As Peter wrote, you are a person “for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Our Savior, Jesus Christ, “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14).

So, don’t waste your life or settle for less than God’s best. Accept Christ as your Savior, then begin to live the life He has planned for you. You are a valuable jewel and a precious collectible to God!

 

 

 

 

 

Turbulent Times

85.jpeg

As I write this devotional, our nation is in turbulent times. Nationally, we face astronomical debt, moral bankruptcy and disruptive division. We are more politically separated than ever before. According to a September 2018 study by Zachary Neal, the divide between Democrats and Republicans is the worst it has ever been. He said, “What I’ve found is that polarization has been steadily getting worse since the early 1970’s. Today, we’ve hit the ceiling on polarization. At these levels, it will be difficult to make any progress on social or economic policies.” One respondent named Nancy summed it up, smartly: “History shows repeatedly that nation states generally only last 200-300 years….Romans, Ottomans, Incas, Aztecs, etc. We are poised to fall, so you better take those Mandarin Chinese online classes!”

I doubt that is the best response, but the world is in a dangerous and uncertain place. Individually, we feel helpless and insignificant, and may think we cannot make a difference. What can people and churches do about divisive and turbulent conditions?

The people of ancient Israel must have felt just as helpless and powerless after four hundred years of slavery in Egypt and forty years of wandering in the wilderness of Sinai. In Joshua one, they were poised at the entrance to the Promised Land. I am sure it did not escape their attention that they were standing in the very place where their forefathers had balked in unbelief forty years before (Numbers 13—14). With two exceptions, all that former generation had died, leaving a new group to face the challenges inherent in settling a new land. If they went forward, they knew they faced an uncertain future. If they went back, they would die in the desert. What would they do? How could they survive?

Fortunately for them and for us, neither God nor His promises had failed, and that day the nation of Israel stepped forward, trusting His promises. Their leader, Moses, had died, but at exactly the right time, God raised up Joshua for the next step in their journey. Everybody knows that times of transition are difficult, but God was there, providing their needs. Whether facing turbulent times or not, you can always trust God to do what He says He will do.

Biblical events in the Old Testament Scriptures serve as examples for New Testament believers. Paul told the Corinthians: “These things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). He reminded the Romans that, “whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). This means we should read the Bible, learn its lessons, and persevere and be encouraged, even in the face of troubles.

What was the answer for Joshua, and what is the solution for us, as we face turbulent times?

ONE: Rely on God’s Power“Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you…No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life” (Joshua 1:3, 5). God had promised to give them the land, now all they had to do was to obey, relying on His power to do what He promised.

Within a few weeks Israel witnessed God’s power as they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground (Joshua 3:17); then surrounded the mighty city of Jericho, where the people merely shouted and “the wall fell down flat” (Joshua 6:20). No matter how large the obstacle, God is stronger. The One who created the universe by His spoken word, has power to protect, lead and guide people who love, serve and follow Him. He is no less powerful today.

TWO: Depend on God’s Promise“Arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel….This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success” (Joshua 1:2, 8).

No doubt, Joshua remembered the words of God spoken by Moses a short time earlier when, “He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’” (Deuteronomy 31:23). God’s Word and promises bring success. Read, study, memorize and meditate on His Word and He will help you to obey it.

THREE: Trust in God’s Presence“Just as I was with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you….Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:5, 9). Centuries later, God promised: “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

God’s presence is more than a comfort; it strengthens you to do what He calls you to do. God will be with you and enable you to honor Him in words and deeds, no matter what opposition you face. With Paul we claim, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). His power, promise and presence can win the day in turbulent times! Remember: No nation or problem is too much for Him!

Teaching with God’s Authority

il_570xN.1530127112_hrow.jpg

Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 5, 6 and 7, often called the “Sermon on the Mount,” is one of the most amazing sections of teaching in the Bible. In just 106 verses of Scripture, Matthew records what Jesus taught in one day, on various aspects of the Kingdom of God and ways Christians are to honor, serve Him, and interact with others. It includes His 8 Beatitudes and what is called the Lord’s Prayer. Most people agree that it is the greatest sermon ever preached.

Sayings from the Sermon on the Mount have become part of our everyday language. Phrases like, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Judge not,” “You are the salt of the earth,” “A city on a hill cannot be hidden,” “Let your light shine,” “Turn the other cheek,” and many more are found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Immediately following the sermon, Matthew wrote: “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29). The teaching of Jesus compared to the scribes was so remarkably different that the hearers were “amazed.” This word literally means they were knocked out or overwhelmed at His teaching.

Notice what it was that shocked their thinking and distinguished Christ’s teaching—it was His authority! Jesus taught with the authority of God, not as the scribes. When Jesus taught, as the Spokesman of God, people were moved and convinced!

Some of you may remember the television commercials for E. F. Hutton from the 1980’s. Hutton was a financial services company, whose television advertisements gained nationwide notoriety for almost 20 years. In one ad, a planeload of people was in their seats, chatting with each other while some read newspapers and magazines. In the middle of the scene, one man leans across the aisle and says to another: “Well my broker is E. F. Hutton, and E. F. Hutton says….” Immediately all chatter stops and it becomes deathly quiet while everyone, including the pilot and co-pilot, focus on the man speaking. Then the announcer says, “When E. F. Hutton speaks, people listen!”

In a very real way, that is what happened when Jesus spoke. People came from all over Judah, Galilee, the Decapolis and Samaria, just to see, hear, and be touched by Him. As Matthew wrote, His teaching with such authority overwhelmed the people.

Although there is no one who could rival Jesus, when preachers and teachers speak the Word of God today, it can and should be with His authority. Pastors and teachers, standing and speaking with an open Bible before them, should be God’s spokesmen to this generation. Our teaching should be Bible-based, Jesus-centered and Spirit-empowered. That kind of teaching and preaching will be blessed of God and will impact lives of those who listen.

So, how can we teach with God’s authority?

Speaking with God’s authority requires the speaker to know God personally, walk with Him daily, and speak His Word passionately. You cannot speak convincingly for and about a stranger. You cannot reveal to another what you do not know yourself, and you can’t pass on what you don’t possess. To know Christ as your Savior, the Holy Spirit as your guide and His Word as your subject opens the way to speak with authority.

It is for this reason that Paul told Timothy to: “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). To speak, preach and teach with God’s authority requires study, preparation, and time in the Book. Paul wanted Timothy to know that if the Lord was to be pleased, his work had to be done, and God’s Word had to be used. Paul expected of Timothy, as God expects of us—for the Lord to be well pleased—the work to be well done—and the Word to be well used. As you examine yourself, ask:

One: Is the Lord well pleased? “Study to show thyself approved unto God.”

Teaching and preaching the Word of God should always be aimed primarily to gain God’s approval, never man’s applause. To speak, preach and teach well, you must study. The word for study means to give diligence, to labor. Preparing to teach a lesson or to preach the Word of God comes down to hard, tedious, labor-intensive work. But our message should always be for an audience of One. Doing it for God’s approval eliminates pride.

Two: Is the work well done? “A workman that needeth not to be ashamed.”

Handling, teaching and preaching the Word of God is work. Proper preparation and total dependence upon God eliminates shame that otherwise would hamper the message of God and embarrass the man of God. Do the best work possible preparing the message or lesson you are to present.

Three: Is the Word well used? “Rightly dividing the word of truth.”

No matter how appealing the teacher—no matter how entertaining the message—no matter how stimulating the subject—if the message does not rightly divide the Word of truth, nothing eternal will result. The words rightly dividing, means to cut straight or properly handle, the Word of God. Knowledge of your subject and correct understanding of God’s Word builds confidence in the message. Remember, it is the Word of God that is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword;” it is the Bible that brings to light “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Bible teaching that impacts lives is always well prepared. It is always presented for His glory. And it is always true to the whole of Scripture. Stand on the authority of God’s Word, and don’t flinch! Get into His Word and share it truthfully and faithfully and you will see what God can do!