2 Timothy 1: “Just a Small Brush Fire”

South Philadelphia, July, 1989

If you’re just joining us, I’ve shared a couple of stories growing up, but for this story it’s important to know that I grew up on the South Side of Philadelphia. In fact, I grew up about 75 yards from the busiest set of railroad tracks on the east coast that ran from New York to Washington D.C. called, “The Northeast Corridor.”

One day in the middle of summer, my friends and I thought it would be fun to light spinners and throw them in the air. (FYI: Spinners don’t spin when you throw them in the air.) We would often go to the end of my street to perform these shenanigans because it was a dead end. Well, on this particularly hot and windy day, one of the spinner blew over the fence near the rail road tracks. Realizing, “wait, this could start a fire,” we ran around the fence onto the tracks to stomp out the spinner. Feeling the adrenaline rush of that moment, we decided to keep going.

Unfortunately our 4th grade minds didn’t take into consideration the very tall dead grass less than twenty feet from where we were standing. Needless to say, one of the spinners got carried away in the wind and fell into the dense covering of really tall dead grass.

We thought we had the fire contained and stomped out, so we all decided to put down our incendiary devices and go back to playing in the street. Suddenly we could see smoke starting to peak over the large bushes and fence down by the tracks. You may be thinking, “what did you do?” WE RAN, of course! All of us ran home and tried to pretend that nothing happened.

My mother, who apparently wasn’t born yesterday, as she would remind me, saw me sitting out on our stoop with my shoes sitting next to me, came out and asked me what was going on. Of course I lied and said, “nothing…”

“Steven? What did you do?”

“Seriously Mom, nothing’s going on…”

What happened next was a blur of activity:

  • A neighbor who’s house was right next to the fire pulled out his garden hose to fight the blazing inferno
  • The fire siren went off and the fire dept. was dispatched for the brush fire
  • The fire trucks first went to the wrong side of the tracks and had to turn around to come back on the other side
  • Thick black smoke was billowing up as the plastic covering on the fence melted away
  • South bound local train service was halted
  • The siding of the neighbors house was melted due to the heat of the fire

All because, that which we thought was extinguished, reignited because of the strong wind. Then, as the wind continued to blow it just served as fuel to spread the fire along the line of dead grass and bushes.

Fan Into Flame

Paul in 2 Timothy reminds Timothy to, “…fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

If you’ve ever spent anytime around a fire you know that even a fire that looks out can be quickly reignited simply by adding wind. The reminder/encouragement Paul provides Timothy indicates that his fire may have all but been out at this point. When you add verse 7 into the mix, we can deduce that Timothy was probably suffering from being fearful and timid in the faith as well.

Hear me: Paul isn’t just reminding Timothy, but reminds us today to allow the wind of the Holy Spirit to reignite the flame of His presence in our lives! Later he will say, (v. 14) 14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.”

(v. 8) So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.

 

Titus 3: “One, Two, Three Strikes You’re Out!”

“I’m warning you…” These are the words of a teacher trying to maintain control in the classroom. These are words I heard quite often, followed by “…Mr. Spangenberg.”

…Before I Count To Three

It didn’t take much for me to cause havoc in the classroom, especially when I knew I had two strikes before I would get kicked out. I remember once when my third grade teacher said strike one, and I went into my best umpire voice… “Steeerrrikkkee One!”

Parent’s of little ones, let me let you in on a little secret. Counting to three only gives kids two more seconds to misbehave. In fact, a while ago I heard a mother in the grocery store say, “If I get to five…” Five? Now that’s a gift! That means I literally have 4 seconds, maybe even more if they count slow, to do whatever I want. As long as I don’t get to five, I’m good! The parents that really crack me up are the ones who start resorting to fractions: 2 – 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 – 2 3/4… Three! Get to three already!

You gotta know, my parents never counted. I remember wondering if they were just confused about what number came first, cause I never heard even the number “one” before my sentence was handed down. And my parents were judge, jury, and executioner!

In the final section of his letter to Titus, Paul tries to communicate one more time to avoid the godless chatter of the false teachers.

Titus 3:9-11 (NLT) Do not get involved in foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees or in quarrels and fights about obedience to Jewish laws. These things are useless and a waste of time. 10 If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. 11 For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them.

As I read this part of the chapter I couldn’t help but think about the millions of unsaved people dying everyday while pastors and theologians debate about topics like predestination and eternal security. Think about it, in a time when we should be doing everything we can to share the gospel, we tend to make it more and more difficult for people to hear. I agree with Paul, “these things are useless and a waste of time.”

Then Paul gives the instructions to give two warnings before strike three. Paul concludes with the wisdom that people who are willing to fight and quarrel over “spiritual pedigrees” or “Jewish laws” have turned away from the truth.

In a day and age when truth is relative and there’s no such thing as absolute, we as the church need to be the voice for truth in the world. Don’t forget what we read in 1 Timothy 3:15b (NLT) This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. We need to affirm that there is such a thing as absolute truth.

As we wrap up, I thought it would be helpful to have some additional scripture to encourage those who have turned away from the truth.

  • John 17:3 (NLT) And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.
  • John 17:17 (NLT) 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.
  • John 18:37 (NLT) 37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?” Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”
  • John 14:6 (NLT) Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.