Wednesday, 31 December 2008

After he patiently endured

And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. – Hebrews 6v15

I trembled at the voice of God
A voice of love and thunder deep
With love He means to save us all
And Love has chosen you and me

Long after we are dead and gone
A thousand years our tale be sung
How faith compelled and bore us on
How barren Sarah bore a son
So come to Canaan, come

These are a few of the words from Andrew Peterson’s marvellous song ‘Canaan Bound.’ It expresses the blessedness of patiently enduring our days until God fulfils His promise.

Abraham had been promised that he would be the father of a great nation, that his descendents would outnumber the stars in heaven and the grains of sand on the seashores. Years passed and nothing happened. Abraham at one point resorted to his own machinations, yet still he had to wait.

But at the end Abraham patiently endured. He just learned to wait, and eventually God fulfilled His promise.

When it seems that all we do is plod along and endure may we all remember the marvellous fact that in response to God’s promise ‘barren Sarah bore a son.’

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Don’t get sluggish

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. – Hebrews 6v11-12

Ouch. What a perfect time to come across this verse. This is our fourteenth Christmas fortnight in Ireland. I have to say that we have become fully culturally acclimatised to this strange two week period. For several years everything was basically shut down over ‘the Christmas.’ Things have changed and now many shops are open, but it is still a very unusual time. People may get together a bit, but basically people just tend to vegetate in front of the telly watching a plethora of ‘Christmas movie.’ Of kind of Christmas lethargy and sluggishness develops.

I guess in some ways that is okay. We stay busy right up through Christmas with church activities, but from then right up until the new year there is very little going on. It is a nice break and something of a holiday for us. I know that God has nothing against a little break now and then, but if I am not very careful I can allow that the physical sluggishness become spiritual sluggishness.

It is today, right in the middle of this unusual time that I come across this passage – ‘don’t become sluggish.’ Instead we are encouraged to ‘show the same diligence and imitate those who endure on with faith and patience.’

This time period is an easy one in which to let our guard down. Thank God for this reminder to avoid the spiritual sluggishness which has a way of slipping in.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Out of sight, out of mind - not!

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labour of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. - Hebrews 6v10

There are some ministries where if we didn’t know better we might think that no one notices and that everyone has forgotten about us. There are some ministries and ways of service that can be very, very lonely. This can be tough when people serve the Lord far away from their family and friends when the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ seems to apply.

In those situation the truth of Hebrews 6v10 can be a special blessing – ‘God is not unjust to forget your labour of love that you show by ministering the saints.’ Others may not see it, others may forget. “Out of sight, out of mind,’ may fit with others.

God, however, is not ‘others.’ We are never out of His sight and never out of His mind. He doesn’t forget the ways that we show out love by ministering to each other. Every little thing we do to serve each other is seen and remembered by God. He doesn’t miss it!

‘Out of sight out of mind’ may apply to even the most well intentioned of people, but it certainly does not apply to God.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

With confidence

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4v15-16

This relates closely to a post made a couple of days ago. We have great comfort in knowing that we have a High Priest who can truly sympathise with our weaknesses because He has been there Himself.

In addition to that great truth today we see that because of that we can enter god’s throne room with absolute confidence and boldness that He is fully able to provide the mercy and help that we have in time of need. When I talk to Him now I can do so confidently that He knows what I am talking about and what I am going through.

When I pray I don’t need to worry about things like, ‘Can God really understand this? How can He get it – He is God after all. He lives in heaven and doesn’t have to deal with all this.’

But He does know. He would have known anyway. But now our minds can comprehend that He understands and that comprehension gives us confidence and boldness and that He can and will provide mercy and help no matter what our need is.

So no matter what we are facing today – no matter what the struggles, the hurt, and the pains, He knows, and we can confidently go to Him for mercy and help in those times of need.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Nothing hidden

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. - Hebrews 4v13

I am afraid that we all deal with a certain kind of sin that we don’t like to talk about much. This is that that certain son, whether in action or in mind, that we are able to keep hidden. Maybe it is lust, maybe it is unjustified anger, maybe it is selfishness, or pride, or whatever. Through the years we become masters at keeping it hidden so that we begin to think that no one really knows.

There is one thing that we too often forget – nothing we do is hidden from God. All things are naked and open to His sight. Even the sins that don’t manifest themselves on the surface He still sees. Those innermost thoughts and those private actions are wide open to Him – He doesn’t miss a thing.

Why is it that we are more concerned about what others see than what God sees? What is it that it doesn’t seem quite so bad when only He knows? Why is it that we are embarrassed for someone else to catch us, but don’t care that we are naked and open before a perfect and holy God?

Friday, 26 December 2008

Cutting right to the heart of the matter

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. - Hebrews 4v12

I have to admit that I still find Hebrews a challenging study, and indeed and challenging devotional read. I have studied it, preached out of it, and taught the whole book; and yet I still am challenged and questions constantly rise to the fore.

I am therefore glad to come across verses that are clear and obvious in their meaning. Even though there are times when the word of God is difficult for our human minds to grasp, one truth remains – it is still alive and powerful and has the ability to cut right to the core of the matter in our hearts. It alone has the ability to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.

You and I can look at a person and make some determinations by a person’s lifestyle. We can clearly say something like, ‘That person is not behaving like a Christian.’ But the truth is that only God’s word can discern their thoughts and intents. It is the only think powerful enough to cut right to the quick. That is why it is so powerful and why we are called upon to boldly proclaim it.

Let us never forget that as we hear God’s word preached, as we study it on our own, and as we spend time daily in it, that it is more than just words on a page (or a computer screen.) It is alive, it is powerful, it is sharper than any two-edged sword, it is able to divide soul and spirit and joints and marrow, it discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. Nothing cuts to the heart like the ever dynamic word of God.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

There remains a rest

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. - Hebrews 4v9-10

Speaking of all the turmoil and the stuff we all have to deal with, at least we as believers have the ability to run to our haven of rest and find a break in the midst of it all. We do have some measure of rest as we live for, serve, and find strength and comfort in the rest He gives us even now.

And yet we have another rest coming, the same kind of rest that God had on the seventh day. There is a day coming when the labour will be over, the trials and tribulations passed, and the struggles done,

It is that final perfect rest that keeps us going. It is that rest that makes all this worthwhile. There is a final rest coming, may we keep our focus there and stay faithful to the end.

By the way, a very Happy Christmas to all.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Consider Christ Jesus

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. – Hebrews 3v1-2

There is so much to consider and think about at the moment isn’t there. In these days our thoughts are constantly drawn to all the bad news we are hearing. Today’s headlines, for example, are saying that this may be Ireland’s worse economic times in a century. We think about the Christmas shopping and the Christmas meals and getting the presents wrapped and who is calling over and where we have to go. Some of us are thinking about all the ‘stuff’ that comes with living our every day lives. There is a lot to think about, isn’t there.

But what about this thought in he midst of all this stuff? ‘Consider Christ Jesus.’ Specifically here we are challenged to consider his faithfulness, but we do this passage no harm by just being reminded of think on Him. Because He is faithful all the rest can take a back seat.

Pause for a moment from all the stuff running around in your head and take some time to consider why we have this Christmas season, consider Jesus!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Been there, done that

For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. – Hebrews 2v18

There is more on this marvellous truth in chapter four, but for now there is just a hint at a special blessing.

Whenever we go through a tough time we like to have someone to talk to. It is always nice to have anyone to talk to, but it REALLY helps to talk to someone who has been through what we are going through. Unless they have ‘been there and done that’ that can’t really understand. That is the reason that ‘support groups’ are so popular. We like to know that people have been through what we are going through so they can really get what we are talking about.

Support groups are fine, I suppose, but as believers we have One who can REALLY understand. Jesus, Himself, suffered and went through trials and testings so that we can know that He truly understands. He has been there and done that. We can know that we are not going through this alone. Therefore we can know for sure that He is able to help us in our time of greatest need.

Praise God for the only One who can really understand everything we will face. And Praise God that He is ready and willing to help!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Not ashamed to call us brethren

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, - Hebrews 2v11

I always have a hard time even talking about this. It almost seems to verge on blasphemous pride. It is a truth so incomprehensible that it makes me uncomfortable to talk about it, but this passage says that because He that sanctifies (Jesus) and those who are sanctified (us) he is not embarrassed to call us His brethren.

I have a hard time getting my head around that. I know all of the theological reasons, the truths, and the proofs, but it is astounding to me. We have a family who come to our Kids Klub and Sunday School. They have two daughters, Sally and Annabelle. Sally is nine, a lovely, vivacious, and talented little girl. Annabelle is seven, beautiful, but autistic. Being autistic, sometimes Annabelle does things in public that might be embarrassing. You might expect Sally to be ashamed of her little sister. But Sally is far from that. She is so happy that Annabelle is her little sister, nothing could make her ashamed.

I know that all human illustrations are imperfect, but isn’t this something like Jesus not being ashamed to call us brethren. He sees beyond our weakness and frailty to see us like children of God. Since He is the Son of God that makes us His brethren. Despite some of the embarrassing things we do He still recognises us as part of his family.

What is really tragic is that we can be more ashamed of Him than He is of us. What a terrible indictment on us. He is not ashamed to call us brethren, but how often are we ashamed to name His as ours.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Oh Captain, My Captain

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  – Hebrews 2v10 

O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead. 

Thus begins Whitman’s classic poem about Abraham Lincoln the American ship of state. The nation had endured a bloody civil war, but now it was over, the trip was over and the ship of state was calling into port to the adulation of the masses. 

There was tragedy on deck – the captain who had led them on the journey lay dead, cold and lifeless. The one who had guided the ship had done so bravely, but did not make it home. 

It is a beautiful and sentimental poem, but is melancholy. There was joy in he victory, but sadness at the captain’s death. 

As believers we also have a captain. Jesus was made the captain of our salvation. Like Lincoln in the poem His captaincy involved suffering and death. But there is a difference, when our journey is over and we sail into our heavenly port our captain is alive and well. Lincoln could conquer and enemy, but he could not conquer death. Our captain, Jesus, will conquer all enemies and all foes, including death. Because our captain conquered it there is now nothing for us to fear! Maybe we can tweak the first stanza of Whitman’s poem to speak of our captian. 

O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lives
Victor though once dead! 

Saturday, 20 December 2008

We see Jesus

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. – Hebrews 2v9 

I want to include the end of verse eight here for the context – ‘…For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him.’ 

Jesus came to ‘put all things under His feet,’ and now they are. Everything is under His control. Obviously we cannot see everything yet. Not seeing it all can be a great frustration. We all want to know why it is all happening. It is not good enough to know what is happening, we want to see the whole picture.

And yet we read here in verse eight that we ‘do not yet see all things put under Him.’ Simply put, we don’t see the whole picture yet. We can’t see it all. 

But then isn’t that what faith is all about? It is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Faith is about believing in things we cannot see. 

Still we can see something – ‘we see Jesus’ who was made like us so that He might taste death for us.’ When we can’t figure it out and we can’t see what is going on we can still see Jesus. He is the One, as the origin and completion of our faith, that we need to look to. 

We can’t see it all – but we can see Jesus!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Why do You bother with man?

 But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? – Hebrews 2v6 

Think about it – why would God bother with us? He is perfect, holy, righteous, just, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal, unchanging, perfectly wise and loving, and so much more. 

We, on the other hand, are wretched, vile, we cannot do good, our feet our swift to shed blood. Man is at enmity with God. Our sin nature dominates and controls us. The best of our good works and righteousness is a stench in His nostrils, nothing more than filthy menstrous rags. 

Why indeed would He bother? There is no one righteous, no, not a single one. All have sinned and fallen short of His glory.

Why? Because ‘He first loved us.” Because, ‘God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. Because, ‘while we were still sinners Christ died for us.’ 

How do we answer the psalmist as quoted in Hebrews? ‘What is man?’ 

Filthy, wretched, vile, hopeless sinner – yes, but also the object of His divine and perfect love. 

Thursday, 18 December 2008

More Earnest Heed

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. – Hebrews 2v1

It is easy to fall into the trap that the Christian life is something in which we can just coast along and never worry about it. We think that as long as we are going to church and doing the Christian ‘things’ we are okay. We think that coasting along is good enough.

The writer of Hebrews spells it our differently – ‘we must give the more earnest heed to what we have heard.’ If not, we are in danger of drifting away, not from salvation, obviously, but from the strength and stability we find in those truths.

Like everything else our walk with the Lord requires diligent application. If I do not daily apply myself to my marriage the feelings and attachments will drift. The same is true with the things of the Lord. If I don’t apply ,myself regularly to His word and the things I have learned they will, slowly but surely drift away and I will not have that kind of fervent relationship with Him that is so vital.

Living for Him takes constant effort and application. We can’t just sit back and get it by osmosis. To live for Him requires this ‘utmost heed to the things we have heard.’

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Ministering spirits

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1v14

We are back to one of those topics that causes me as many questions as answers. The previous verse has just told us that Jesus is better than the angels, then we are told that they [the angels] are sent forth to ‘minister to those who will inherit salvation.’ From all indications there is some way that the angels today have a role in ministering to believers.

How do they minister to us? What do they do? Do they directly intervene? Do they push us off the railroad tracks just in time to avoid an oncoming train? ( I am nearly convinced that this one happened to us near Corinth, Mississippi? Do they remind us to look just one more time before crossing the road? Do they distract us to keep us from crossing a junction and avoid being hit by a car breaking a traffic light?

I don’t know. But I do trust God’s word enough to believe that they do minister to us.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

You remain

They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. Hebrews 1v11-12

The older I get the more I realise that truth that everything changes. Things get old and wax away. All my friends are getting older. I visit places where I used to live and can’t recognise them. I watch old news stories and think how young and vivacious the people look and then realise that they are all dead now.

Everything does indeed change and it will continue to do so. One day it is all going to be done. Even this wonderful old earth will have served its purpose and will be ‘folded up like a garment.’

The great thing is that no matter want happens we do have a great Constant. ‘You [Jesus] will remain…you are the same…your years will not fail.’ We get old and pass away. Our friendships and relationships change. Nothing really stays the same.

Yet, how marvellous that our Jesus will still be here at the end. He won’t will still be same, and we will be able to be with Him forever and ever because His years will not cease.

Monday, 15 December 2008

By the word of His power

who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, - Hebrews 1v3

Isn’t amazing how it is so easy for us to think that we know what is best and we could do things so much better than God if we only had the chance? It is easy to question Him when things happen that we don’t like. It is easy to wonder if He is really in control.

There is so much in these first few verses of Hebrews that it is hard to pick out one thing to focus on. Jesus, as the brightness of God’s glory and the perfect expression of His person, now upholds all things by the word of His power. He proved that by the greatest feat of all when He purged our sins and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Jesus who upholds all things today is the same Jesus who spoke all things into existence. He is the same Jesus who purged me of my sins. There is nothing I can imagine that would take more power than creating the world and purging my sin.

So what does this all mean? It means that every single moment that goes by Jesus is upholding everything with the power that created the world and purged my sin. He is in control – His power is absolute.

And we dare to think that we could do it better? When do we do that? Every time we question His leadership and the things that He brings into our lives. God is still on the throne with the vast power of His greatness!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Put it on my account

If then you count me as a partner, receive him as you would me. But if he has wronged you or owes anything, put that on my account. – Philemon 1v17-18

Paul knew that it would not be easy for Philemon to accent Onesimus as a brother and an equal. Servitude in those days was often a way to settle a debt. From the context here it looks like Onesimus was such a ‘slave’ who ran away before all of his debts were paid.

Onesimus had become a brother in Christ. Paul was willing to go out of his way to make sure that Philemon and Onesimus had things sorted out. Paul’s words were simple enough – ‘if you count me as a partner in Christ receive Onesimus back just like you would receive me.’

He took it further though – ‘if he still owes you anything put it on my account.’ It is hard to argue with those words or that attitude.

Paul was trying to set an example. He was willing to take on Onesimus debts even if he was not involved at all. I don’t know if sarcasm was ever a part of Paul’s speech, but it almost seems it here because he goes on to say, ‘you owe me your own self besides.’

Here is a great lesson in forgiveness. It does not appear to be much room for an attitude that says, “you owe me this or that and I am going to get it back!’

Think of the debt Jesus forgave us. Do we have any room to hold the debts of others against them?

Saturday, 13 December 2008

For love’s sake I appeal to you

Therefore, though I might be very bold in Christ to command you what is fitting, yet for love's sake I rather appeal to you being such a one as Paul, the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ - Philemon 1v8-9

There is a lot that we can learn from Paul and how he deals with people. Here he is going to need to deal with Philemon on a difficult issue. Onesimus was Philemon’s slave who had run away. Paul had met him and Onesimus had been saved. Paul was writing to ask Philemon to take him back as a brother in Christ.

Paul mentions that he has the authority to command Philemon to take him back, but that is not how Paul likes to operate. “I want to appeal to you for love’s sake.’ So much of what Paul says and does is based on attitudes even more that actions. He did not want Philemon to receive Onesimus back because he had to. He would rather Philemon receive him back out of love. He wanted Philemon to do it just because that is how brothers and sisters in Christ treat each other.

What motives us to do right? Do we do it because we ‘have to’ or do we do it because of the love of Christ and the saints?

What is our motivation? I think it is clear that love should be out key motivating factor.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Refreshing the hearts

For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.
- Philemon 1v7

There is so much about Philemon that I admire. I have always been challenged by Paul’s words when he writes that ‘the hearts of the saints’ have been refreshed by Philemon.

I love to be around people like that. Being around them is a joy. They are loving and encouraging. You leave feeling like you can face anything because they have encouraged you so much. When you spend time with them you feel like you have been on holiday and have the strength to go on.

On the other hand there are Christians who you dread being around. They have all bad news, discouragement, and defeat. You go in to them feeling bad and walk out feeling worse. You feel like, ‘what’s the use?’ Its kind of a ‘paper cut and lemon juice’ situation. They are either angry and belligerent or gloomy and depressing.

I wonder how other people feel after they have been around me. Am I like Philemon, or the doom and gloomers?

I want to be like Philemon. By God’s grace might I be a ‘heart refresher.’

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Your love and faith

I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers, hearing of your love and faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints, - Philemon 1v4-5

I love this little book of Philemon. One can almost sense the friendship and closeness between Paul and Philemon. It is a perfect illustration of loving instruction, rebuke, and correction.

Philemon must have been quite a guy. I can’t wait to meet him. The church met in his home. I know from experience what that is like. That in itself can be interesting t say the least. I think it is an indication of his character that he was willing to open up his home as a place for believers to meet for worship.

When Paul starts the letter he begins by giving thanks for Philemon and reminding him that he prays for him regularly. Two things stick out from the very start. Paul remembers Philemon’s love and his faith. It is not just his love and faith toward the Lord, but also his love and faith toward al the saints.

I like this combination of love and faith. I can love Christ more because I have faith in Him and my faith increases the more I love him. The more I love others the more I will manifest my faith and the best way to be faithful is to love them more. That doesn’t mean that we overlook sin and faults, but it means that our faith allows us to deal with each other in a loving manner.

The rest of the letter Paul goes on to give Philemon an opportunity to show that wonderful combination of faith and love.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

To meet urgent needs

And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. – Titus 3v14

I am grateful for the training and instruction I received in my early days. It laid a strong and solid foundation that has blessed me greatly. I am glad for the rock solid foundation of the word of God and a love for people.

There is one area that was not big though, and an area that I still need to work on, simply because I don’t think about it. Paul reminds Titus to ‘let our people learn to maintain good works.’ I have to say I honestly strive to do that. I want my works to glorify God and point to the Saviour.

But there is another way to be fruitful – ‘meet urgent needs.’ I am afraid that too often I am not quick to meet these urgent needs. I just don’t make myself aware of them. It is an area that was not a big part of most of the churches I have attended. We left that to the liberal churches.

I know that my lack of training is no excuse though. The word of God is clear; we must be aware of and quick to meet these urgent needs. May I allow God to open my eyes to these ‘urgent needs’ and give me the wisdom to meet them.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Reject a divisive man

Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. – Titus 3v10-11

Paul writes a lot about peace, love, compassion, forgiveness, not speaking evil, and things like there. It is obvious that this should be the norm amongst believers.

The word ‘reject’ therefore is a strong word for Paul to use. It seems like it must certainly apply to some type of wicked, vile, horrible, reprehensible sin. For believers to reject someone is for them to step out of character.

So what kind of person are we called on to reject here? The King James used the word ‘heretic’ here, but to our modern ears the word ‘divisive man’ better describes the person.

The heretic, the schismatic, the divisive man; how do we deal with that. We have the pattern set back in Matthew – we admonish him once, we admonish him again, and if he still refuses to repent we reject him, totally and absolutely.

We are all going to have differences. We are going to have opinions and ideas. That is normal, but when we let those ideas and opinions cause divisions we must expect rejection.

The body must be unified. We must be one. There is no room for causing divisions. I must be very aware and careful that my own actions or words ever cause divisions amongst believers.

Monday, 8 December 2008

To speak evil of no one

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. – Titus 3v1-2

I realise that sometimes we must speak out about false teachers. I realise that sometimes we have to expose error. I realise that sometimes we must speak out against dangerous doctrines and people who espouse them.

And yet the word of God is clear that this kind of speech cannot be our normal practice. We as Christians can be quite accomplished tearing people up with our tongues. Sometimes we think that the best way fro us to look good is to make others look bad.

Here though Paul makes it very clear in his words to Timothy – ‘speak evil of no one.’ I think part of the key here that we speak evil of their actions or their teachings without speaking evil of them. Our job is to seek peace, not conflict. We are to seek humility in our dealings – not arrogance.

What would my life and testimony be like if I just took these simple words to heart? What if I determined, by the grace of God not to let my feelings and emotions get in the way and if I acted in humility instead of self-centredness?

‘Speak evil of no one’ is quite a challenge.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Zealous of good works

…who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. – Titus 2v14

God knows just when to bring the right passage into our lives. Such is the case for this passage.

‘Zealous of good works’ means just what it sounds like. As we are God’s own unique personal possession there are certain things expected of us. Part and parcel with our uniqueness should be a zeal and a fire about good works.

Let me share why I was convicted about this. Wednesday afternoon a friend who is a part of our church whenever he is in the country on business called by the house. He told me that he wanted to go and pass out tracts in Dublin on Saturday. To my shame I didn’t have a supply on hand to do that. I was full of reasons why it could not be done, but he was convinced that it was what God wanted us to do, so I contacted our printer. Surprisingly he was able and willing to print up a few hundred Christmas tracts for us by Friday. I ordered them and let my friend know that they would be ready.

I was not going to be able to go because I had meeting scheduled for Saturday, so this was easy enough so far. I don’t like Dublin when it is crowded and handing our big numbers of tracts is not my favourite ministry thing to do.

To make a long story short my meeting was cancelled so I knew that I should go in and help pass out the tracts.

Yesterday morning I read this passage in my devotions. I was smitten because I knew then that I did not have a zeal to do this work. I was going, but only because my meeting was cancelled and my friend would have to go alone if I did not go. I was not going because I was zealous of goods works.

We went after that, my spirit and my attitude were better, and the Lord gave us a great time passing out the tracts. People were receptive and open to receive them for the most part.

I am grateful for this ‘zeal check’ and for a godly friend who encouraged me to do right even with my lack of zeal.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

His own peculiar people

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.. – Titus 2v14

I realise that the word ‘peculiar’ does not mean the same thing that it did in 1611. Today of course it means unusual, or something that is not quite right. When something is not quite right we might say, ‘That’s mighty peculiar,’ but in 1611 readers would have thought something else.

To the average reader in the early 17th century the word ‘peculiar’ meant a person’s special possession. This particular English word was taken from the Latin word ‘peculium.’ The word meant ‘private property’ but originally it meant one’s own cattle, which was the valuable of possessions. It seems that the Greek word here means the same as peculium.

I think the meaning is clear – we are the precious of God’s possessions. Nothing means more to Him than us.

So what does that say when I sin? Am I really acting like His most treasured possession, or am I acting more like I still belong to me.

The verses around this one tell us how his special private property is supposed to act. Do we really act like God’s peculiar people? Do people see that in us, or do they see us acting like we belong to someone else?

Friday, 5 December 2008

Grace has appeared

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, - Titus 2v11

Ah Christmas, I do love it. I don’t like the traffic, the shopping, and the hassle. I do like the family, the fun, the sentiment, and the buzz. I like the focus that it should give us.

At the core of it all is the truth in this passage – ‘the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.’ God chose to send grace through the gift of His some. The grace is there, God provided it for all. Because of Christ all may receive His grace.

But it doesn’t stop there. God’s grace doesn’t stop at salvation. After salvation that grace teaches us how to live. Some may think that grace means we can live any way we want. Paul responded to that in Romans 6 – ‘God forbid – may it never be!’ Grace appeared to save us, but it also appeared to teach us to deny ungodliness, to deny worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly lives in this present world.

The gift of grace saved us, but let us not forget that it also teaches us how to live today.

The question for each of us is, are we willing to listen to the teaching?

Thursday, 4 December 2008

A pattern of good works

and in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. – Titus 2v7-8 

Paul uses similar words of advice to Titus that he gave to Timothy. Paul is always clear that when we serve the Lord we are going to face opposition. No matter what, we are going to have opponents. 

I think it is amazing that the word of God deals with every day practicalities. How do we deal with our opponents? Simple enough take away all their ammunition. ‘Show yourself a pattern of good works….that one who is an opponent may be ashamed and have nothing to say.’ Specifically we are to set a pattern with our good works, set a pattern in doctrine, show integrity, be reverent, be incorruptible, and use sound speech that cannot be condemned. 

Each of these is worth our attention, but I know doe me that the last one is the one that can cause me problems. My mouth is what can get me into most trouble and give others cause to be critical. It is vitally important that my words do not give anyone a chance to condemn me. 

I may still have opponents, but I need to be sure that I give them nothing to use. At the end, whether they admit it or not, they will be ashamed of their attacks. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The older men

that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; - Titus 2v2

The older men – not that I am one or anything, but one day I probably will be. As I begin the enter the years of being one of the older men I am wise to pay particular attention to words of guidance.

When I read this I thought of grandfathers. As a granddad I go by ‘Grampy.’ One thing I don’t want to be is an old sourpuss who acts like a ‘grumpy Grampy.’ I also don’t want to be a pushover who spoils the grandchildren by giving them whatever they want. I need to be able to set an example of being solid, instructive, and at the same time loving and patient.

It is that last one that is the tough one. The older we get the harder it can be to be patient with the little ones. They are impetuous, investigative, curious, loud, and they require attention. But as Grampy I try to lovingly and patiently set an example and teach them.

The same holds true for a spiritual Grampy. Instead of being a grumpy Grampy who is always angry and upset, the older men must not waver in their example of being sober, reverent, and temperate. Their (our) faith must be solid. But as we practice those things we must be patient and loving with those who are young and growing.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

In works they deny Him

They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. – Titus 1v16 

We talk a lot, and rightfully so, about the fact that our works have nothing to do with our salvation. We are saved totally, absolutely, completely, and totally by the grace of God. Nothing can ever change that. 

It is important though to remember that we are not saved by our good works, but we are saved in order to do good works, because God ordained before the foundation of the world that his children would do good works. Those who are saved will show it by their works. 

Here Paul talks about some false professors. The evidence of their false profession is this – ‘they profess to know God, but their works deny Him. Then he goes on to use some pretty harsh words. 

No one expects us to be perfect. We are going to battle with sin and we are going to blow it at times. We all have to grow in Christ with the accompanying ‘growth pains.’ But when it is all said and done, our works must match up with our words. People must see the power of Christ working in me through my works. If not, then I am the ultimate hypocrite. My words say I follow Christ. Do my works deny Him? 

The next time we are tempted to sin, we must remember that in so doing we are denying the Saviour who hung on he cross for us. We say that we would never deny Him with our lips, but the more important daily truth is that we must nit deny Him with our walk. 

Monday, 1 December 2008

By sound doctrine

…holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. – Titus 1v9 

How do we answer our critics? We have all kinds of choices in how to respond. A common method is get real loud and brusque. Another way is to get angry and go on a personal attack. Another is to launch a tirade about the false teachings and how this kind of thinking leads to this and that and so and so. A favourite in my traditional circle of associates is to simply call the person a liberal and a compromiser. Usually this kind of debate leads to conflict, fighting, and a ‘never back down’ mentality. Nothing is solved, feelings are hurt, divisions are started, and the cause of Christ is damaged. 

So what do we do when we encounter those who contradict? There is only one proper response. We hold true to the word of God and use sound doctrine to answer. After all, no reasonable believer can argue with God’s word taught as sound doctrine. If a person still argues they are no longer arguing with us, but with God Himself. When that comes to pass we have done all we can do and then simply can leave it. 

Saying it loud enough and often enough does not make it true. That will not exhort or convict. Only God’s word has the power to do that.