We’re in a confusing world. People pursuing good are often portrayed as evil, and increasingly so. People doing wrong with a convincing argument seem to succeed and grow a following sometimes. I have to constantly remind myself we’re in a battle we can’t even always physically see. I am growing more convinced there is more going on that is unseen than seen. When Paul writes about persecution, is he only talking about the physical? Surely he recognizes the evil spiritual influences behind some of it. But what of things like what Job experienced? IS that not spiritual warfare? Does that fall under persecution? Is my sister’s cancer a form of persecution from an unseen enemy? Is it a battle being waged that we’ll never know about that somehow has eternal significance? Or is it just the result of the fall that brought on sickness and decay? Whatever the answer, my task is to remain faithful by Holy Spirit enabling. Paul did. He faced worse. He taught truth purely, lived it, was clearly transformed by the Holy Spirit, never wavered from his mission, loved like God, and still faced persecution. And he endured faithfully through it. Timothy was an eye witness to all of that and walked through some of it with him. Timothy could expect the same, even from within his own congregation. I think that’s where it hurts the worst. Not so much when someone comes in to stir up trouble, but when it’s someone you’ve loved, cared for, and even trusted. The deceivers will only get worse. Their lies will grow more cunning and they’ll gain more of a following. Still we must endure. Their craftiness and power will never match the Holy Spirit. Lord, help my unbelief! Strengthen me in wearisome times. Help me to look to Jesus.2
Even though the world hates righteousness it maintains an appearance of religion. Today people are spiritual. There are loads of false religions out there. There are also loads of people calling themselves Christian yet having no real form of it, no obedience or transformation whatsoever. Some use grace as an excuse for license and others look very pious yet are steeped in legalism and they’ll tear people down with judgment and gossip. Timothy was to avoid such people. Paul said it would be like this in the end, but obviously saw present application for Timothy. Whether I sit toward the end or not, there is present application. I should steer clear of such people as well. They’ll tear a church apart. We often run after them, sometimes falling into their false teaching. We’re tempted to give into them because we hate losing members, but until they’re changed by the gospel they’ll only bring others down. False teachers prey on weak-minded people. In Ephesus it was a group of women who’d fall for any new heresy that came up. They said they wanted to grow and learn, but the only thing they wouldn’t grow in was the truth. It’s no different today. People are eager to learn something new for various reasons. They’ll fall for any new fad that comes along and gets popular. Paul was probably talking specifically about the rise of what would become Gnosticism at that time. Today it’s going back to OT law or diet, licentiousness, prosperity gospel, name-it-claim-it, and so on. It’s often the more rebellious and immoral spirits who fall for such things because they aren’t grounded in the truth. The example Paul used was not from the OT but is in the 10 Commandments movie. They were the magicians who competed with Moses and lost. Even though they deceived some, God rejected them. While it was a major issue in the church, in the long run they’d be found out and God would set it all straight. That’s encouraging to me as a minister when there are those who try to pull people to heresy or make false claims against me or what I preach. God will shine the truth forth. He is the One I answer to.
It’s been a few days since I last wrote in the journal. We travelled up to Cincinnati and have kept pretty busy with family and meetings investigating church planting. The idea has really grown on both of us. That’s not to say it isn’t scary because it’s so different than having something steady with an established church or similar position, but the excitement really is overtaking the concerns. I’m not sure what the Lord has for us. The connections have been very interesting in this very fresh process. It’s seeming more feasible. I’m open the whatever God has in store, but right now this seems like the most intriguing option. It’s not lost on me that it’s the most recent thing I’ve looked into intensely, so it’s more prevalent on my mind. But in the midst of that intriguing development, on my birthday, we found out my sister likely won’t survive much past Christmas. I already lost my younger sister in 2011. This doesn’t seem right. I know people used to expect to lose multiple children, but it hasn’t been that way in my lifetime and culture. She doesn’t want to talk about it, and that makes things a little tougher on everyone else. It might make it harder on her, too, but I don’t know. I don’t remember what I was doing when Howard told Mom and Judith the news, but Judith told me as soon as we got a moment alone. I finally thought I was going to cry but the tears didn’t fully make their way out. I feel like what I really need right now after this difficult time of life, actually in the middle of it, is a good, long cry, but the tears just won’t come. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s too much stress or emotion all flooding together so it gets jammed up. Not everything is bad. Despite some difficulty to get to this point, looking toward the future of my career and calling is kind of exciting. But it’s a hard time for our family facing another loss. We’re pulling together, and that’s good. There are plenty of good times, but there is a constant heaviness still. I really want to be able to talk to my sister while she still can. She seems to be losing that ability steadily. I want to express my love and care for her and share some really good, deep times with her, but I also don’t want to force her into greater sorrow. I want to encourage her but it’s hard to know how. We’ll just do all we can to enjoy one another and just be together. 2 Timothy 3:1 And then Paul writes to Timothy that difficult times will come in the last days. But there have always been difficult times. Depending on one’s perspective it’s the times of the early church that seem more difficult. But there are more distractions and opportunity for sin and despair in an ever more divided world. People always seem to think we’re in the last days but the world continues on. Maybe that’s the case now, that there is still a lot of time, from our perspective, or maybe we really are close to the end. I’m for it. Just in our immediate circles it seems like we’re hearing about more and more sickness, disaster, death, and dismay. The attacks seem more frequent and heavy. Maybe it’s just my age. Paul describes today pretty well to Timothy. We are selfish, arrogant, and perhaps more adept at blasphemy than any generation before. Social media has amplified each, especially boasting. We worship children to the extent disobedience is taken nowhere near as seriously as it used to be. Discipline is increasingly limited. So much of the world has gained so much more affluence or at least access to new technologies that those things have become like rights for everyone. We constantly hear about some new right everyone has. So we’re more ungrateful than ever. It’s like we take everything for granted and don’t pause to be thankful for what we have. We’re entitled. Holiness is shunned, treated as wrong. People are growing more heartless and that sums up this list pretty well. We are quick to judge and never forgive. Twitter is like a platform for slander. If it feels good, go for it. Whatever you feel like you want to be has to be accepted, so yeah, self-control has gone out the window and to suggest it is necessary for anything other than keeping yourself from speaking out against obvious sin is the only sin anymore. The world hate righteousness. We love sin. We find pleasure in whatever is enticing at the moment and celebrate it. Sin city? And it is all just getting worse. Lord Jesus, come. Lord, reveal any of those ways or other You find offensive in me. Break my heart over them and change me and help me to graciously lead others in the same!