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Bring Mark for Ministry

Bring Mark for Ministry

Today, I’ve been thinking about getting older.

Sometimes, when we get older, we think it’s our time to slow down.  “After all,” we reason, “I’ve done my part.  I’ve worked hard and paid my bills and raised my kids.  I’ve done more than my fair share.  Now it’s time for someone else to carry the torch and lead.  I’m just going to kick back, relax, retire, and die.”

But that’s not the example we see from Scripture.

In AD 60, Paul was imprisoned in Rome.  He was treated well and allowed to stay in his own house at his own expense, for two full years “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him” (Acts 28:31).  It was during this time he wrote his prison epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

Paul was in his mid-sixties.  About retirement age.

Paul was imprisoned a second and final time during the summer of AD 66.  The cause of his arrest may be found in a statement Paul made in his final letter to Timothy: “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm.  May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words” (2 Tim. 4:14-15).

This time, Paul was not allowed to remain under house arrest, but was thrown among the most vile of prisoners in the Mamertine prison or another such dark and horrid place.  This prison was more like a dungeon, or a pit that could only be reached by a ladder or rope let through a hole in the floor above.  There was little ventilation and sanitation was non-existent.  If the idea was to reduce men to mere animals before they faced trial and execution, then the Romans did their job quite well.

It was in this desperate condition, accompanied only by Luke (2 Tim. 4:11), that Paul penned his last letter to Timothy.  Paul was now in his late sixties, well past retirement age.


Paul’s Final Words

Paul begins what would be his farewell address to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy.  In these final words, Paul urges Timothy to be bold in the face of opposition, knowing his own time was short.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 – I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. (why) For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Paul then turns to more personal matters.  He reflects on his present situation, his past ministry, and the future glory he will share with Christ.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 – For I am (present) already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have (past) fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Finally, there is (future) laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

And then amazingly, in the midst of his deplorable conditions, Paul encourages Timothy to come to him, to the Mamertine prison, to help him continue in ministry.

2 Timothy 4:9 – Be diligent to come to me quickly.

Why would Paul ask that of Timothy?  What possible ministry could Paul be undertaking?  The Scriptures don’t say. But we can see that Paul clearly understands his time is not over and there’s still more work to be done.  He knows there’s no retirement plan in the Kingdom of God.  Paul’s not ready, like many of us, to kick back, relax, retire and spend the rest of his days cruising the Caribbean or watching reruns of the Andy Griffith Show.  Even in the midst of unspeakable filth, in the throes of pain and suffering, Paul realized there was still ministry to perform for his Lord.

2 Timothy 4:10 – For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica— Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia.

The sad news is that Demas has forsaken Paul and abandoned him and the faith.  In doing so, Demas will forever be remembered as one who did not finish well and inevitably suffered the certain fate that awaits all who reject the One who came to save them.  The good news is that Paul, even in prison, seems to be directing missionary endeavors to support and encourage the churches in Asia minor.  Paul is saying that “Creschen has departed (or, has been sent or dispatched) to Galatia and Titus (has been sent or dispatched) to Dalmatia” (2 Tim. 4:10).  Paul later says he sent, or dispatched, Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12).

Think about it. In the middle of Paul’s prison cell he is still ministering to others.  Paul’s physical circumstances may have changed for the worse, but not his calling nor his faithfulness to that calling.  Paul, in prison and approaching seventy, facing trial and death, in unspeakable filth, continues ministering to others.  He remains faithful even when he has every reason not to.


Bring Mark

We then have the verse that communicates more to me about the heart of Paul than any other in this passage.  Here Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him when he comes.  That’s the same Mark, by the way, that deserted Paul early in their first missionary journey (Acts 13:13).  And it was the same Mark that caused Paul and Barnabas to exchange such sharp words with each other that they split as a team and headed in different directions (Acts 15:36-39).

2 Timothy 4:11 – Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful (profitable, to furnish what is needed), to me for ministry (serving others, showing benevolence).

Note, Paul did not say Mark would be useful to him to meet his own personal needs, which must have been great.  Nor did he say Mark would be useful to take care of Paul, or lessen his burdens, or comfort him while he suffered and languished in the Mamertine prison.  No, Paul said Mark would be useful, or would furnish what was needed or lacking, in the lives of those Paul himself was ministering to— his fellow cell mates and possibly a guard or two.  It was always for Paul, even in this late hour, about his love for Christ manifested by his ministry to others.

He continues:

2 Timothy 4:13 – Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come— and the books, especially the parchments.

The cloak I understand.  After all, it was probably quite cold in the prison, especially for a man of Paul’s age.  But why the parchments?  What did Paul need with them?  They were for teaching, for his trial preparation, for the opportunity he saw to present Christ to those who would render judgment against him and decide his fate.  He remembered what Jesus said about him, spoken to Ananias so many years ago, “he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).  And even in the midst of prison, at his final curtain call, Paul saw one more opportunity to fulfill his calling and faithfully serve his Lord.

At the age when most of us are tired and want to quit, satisfied and content with the memories of yesteryear, Paul urges forward.  As long as there’s breath in his lungs, he will continue to proclaim the glories of Christ to anyone, anywhere, in any situation, no matter the costs.  For Paul, his best days are from this day forward, no matter how dire this day seems.  Even if this day begins chained to a wall, standing in human excrement, facing certain death, in the bowels of a Roman prison.

Convicting, isn’t it?  Especially when you realize how we view aging and retirement today.

It’s my prayer that I will be more like Paul as the day of my departure approaches (2 Tim. 4:6).  And I also pray I will not mimic most Christians I’ve seen in church, who have worked tirelessly for their retirement and, when it comes, when they now have all the time in the world to serve the Lord they claim to love, instead choose to spend that precious time for themselves, and not for Him or for others.

That’s not the New Testament model.  Pray it doesn’t become the norm for each of us.

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395:  What Does it Mean to Live by Faith? – Part 2

395: What Does it Mean to Live by Faith? – Part 2

The best way for the early church to disciple the 3,000 who came to faith after the preaching of Peter’s sermon would be to let them learn to live like the disciples had lived for the last three years.  Think about it.  How did the disciples of Jesus, who had left everything to follow Him, support themselves during the time they went from city to city with Jesus?  Did they take out a home equity loan on their house?  Did they max out their credit cards to fund their extended mission trip?  Did they cash in their 401k, take the tax hit, and continue on with their vision quest with Jesus?  What did they do?

They lived by faith.  Just like the early church did.  Consider the following:

Acts 2:44-45 – Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

And later…

Acts 4:32-35 – Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.  And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.  Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

Did you ever wonder how that is even possible?  How can we trust each other that much, like they did?  Seems impossible, doesn’t it?  Want to learn more about living by faith?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Acts 2:42-47.

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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394:  What Does it Mean to Live by Faith? – Part 1

394: What Does it Mean to Live by Faith? – Part 1

In Acts 2, after the promised Holy Spirit came mightily upon the faithful praying in the upper room, and after Peter preached his Spirit-empowered sermon, the infant church grew from 120 to over 3,000 literally overnight.   And now the apostles had a logistics problem.  How were they to manage a crowd of over 3,000 newbies without the benefit of Christian literature or Lifeway, CCM, K-LOVE, God’s Not Dead 1 and 2, WinterJam, or local mega-churches with multiple, cross-town campuses?  What were they to do?

The answer was simple.  They were to teach their new Christian brothers exactly what Jesus spent three years teaching them— how to live by faith.  That’s right, faith.  Remember?

Hebrews 11:1 – Now faith (pístis) is the substance (to place under, the basis, foundation, that which underlies the apparent) of things hoped for (confident expectation, to abide still, to expect fully), the evidence (proof, conviction, assurance, supreme confidence) of things not seen.

As we dig deeper into the life of the early church, we’ll discover that faith was pretty much all they had.  And it was enough for them to turn their world upside down (Acts 17:6).

Do you want to know more about what it means to live by faith?  Good.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Acts 2:36-41.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

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391:  Questions from the Infant Church

391: Questions from the Infant Church

As we begin to look at how the Holy Spirit moved in the lives of ordinary men in the book of Acts, we are confronted with a few questions.  These questions have to do with the character of the men Jesus chose to fulfill the mandate He gave to His church.  And what was that mandate?

Acts 1:8 – “But you shall receive power (dúnamis) when (what) the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Then, the first set of questions:

Has this mandate changed for the church?
Does it still apply today?
If so, how are we doing?
Have you received the power Jesus promised?
And how is that power being manifested in your life?
Do you see that kind of power in the church today?
If not, do you ever wonder why?

How would you answer these questions about the church?  How would you answer the ones that are more personal in nature?  The ones about you and the power, or lack of power, in your life?  Do you see a disconnect between the account of the church in Acts and the place you worshipped last Sunday?  Me too.  But what are we going to do about it?

The following is a study on Acts 1:1-14.

To download the slides to this message, click – HERE

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373:  The Love of Women and the Apathy of Men

373: The Love of Women and the Apathy of Men

This truth is never more apparent than at the crucifixion of Jesus.  There, at the foot of His cross, standing faithful with their Lord, we find several women and only one disciple, the one characterized as the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23).  We see Mary the mother of Jesus, and her sister, Salome, the mother of James and John and the wife of Zebedee.  We see Mary the wife of Clopas who, along with Mary Magdalene, kept vigil at the tomb (Matt. 27:61) and was one of the women who tried to persuade the disciples that Jesus was alive (Luke 24:10).  We also see a larger group of women, possibly as many as a dozen, standing together “at a distance” from the cross (Luke 23:49).

But what we don’t see are the bold, self-confident men who pledged their very lives to Christ just a few hours earlier.  Nowhere is Peter, the “even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matt. 26:35) disciple.  Andrew, James, Matthew and the others disciples are conspicuously absent.  AWOL.  Scattered like dry leaves in an October wind.

The men are gone.  These bastions of courage and determination fled like frightened children while the women stood faithful with their Lord to the end.  Why was that?  What was it about the quality of love and devotion found in these women that propelled them to such courage when the men, who should lead in that area, drifted off into the landscape?  What does this show us about true faith and devotion?  What does this show us about the love of women and the apparent apathy of men?  And how can that change our lives today?

If you would like to explore this further, then keep listening.

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