Friday, 31 October 2014

My brother

" 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, saying:
“I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
And again:
“I will put My trust in Him.” And again:
“Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”" - Hebrews 2:11-13

The sanctified and the Sanctifier are one. Jesus is not ashamed to call me His brother. Those are amazing and wonderful truths.

So how do we respond?

I will declare Your name in the assembly of the brethren
I will sing praise to You
I will put my trust in Him

Why does it seem that though Jesus is not ashamed to call me His brother I can seem to be ashamed of Him? Why can it be so hard for me to admit that I am a Christian and that Christ is my Lord and Saviour…and my brother?

It just doesn’t make any sense that He is not ashamed of me, but I can act like I am ashamed of Him. Am I boldly declaring His name in the church? Probably, but am I singing His praises wherever I go?

The question is pretty simple. Jesus is not ashamed to call me His brother. Am I ashamed to call Him mine? 

Thursday, 30 October 2014

His 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, saying:
“I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”
And again:
“I will put My trust in Him.” And again:
“Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”" - Hebrews 2:11-13

Both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all of one. Because of that He is not ashamed to call us His brothers.

Wait just a second. Did you see what that says? Jesus, the Creator and Upholder of the universe, God Himself, is not ashamed to call me his brother.

I can hardly imagine Jesus saying ‘hi, I am Jesus, and this is my brother Roger.’

But that what this verse says – Jesus us not ashamed to call be Him brother. The sanctifier, Jesus, calls me, a sanctified sinner, His brother.

That is such great comfort and encouragement and a blessing. I am fortunate that my own brothers do nothing to make me ashamed of them. It is easy to be proud of my brothers. 

But me as Jesus' brother?  I would do plenty to embarrass Christ.

But no matter what is not ashamed of me. He stands right beside me, puts His arm around me, and says ‘this is my brother.’

Praise God for my brother. I can’t do much on my own, but my brother and I can do anything.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Bringing many sons to glory

N.B. Let me apologise to regular readers for the myriad grammatical and spelling errors in the posts over the last several weeks. I was away from my computer and posting from my iPad. At times my online access was limited or my schedule was tight and I wrote and posted without any kind of check. Thanks for you patience and understanding. 

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 2:10

It suited Christ, who is the source of all things, to become the captain of salvation through His sufferings so that He might 'bring many sons to glory.'

Wow! That verse is so powerful that it really doesn't need any human explanation.

But when I studied this a few years ago I had a thought about this verse that really made an impression on me and does to this day.

The word 'captain' here does not have to just mean the captain of a ship or a military commander. The word can refer to any reader. I don't remember who it was, but someone translated the word as 'pioneer' or 'trailblazer.' From what I can see there is nothing to say that is not a good translation for the meaning of this word.

When I thought about that I remembered a great American painting that depicts frontiersman Daniel Boone escorting settlers through the Cumberland Gap into what is now Kentucky in the US. It shows him out front bringing people through to a new land where they would settle and make their homes.

Now, I realise that we can take this too far and that these paintings were romanticised and glorified. And yet, I think this depiction is a great picture of what Hebrews 2.10 talks about. It is the image of someone leading, or pioneering, or captaining people to a new home.

And that is just what Jesus did for us through His suffering. When he went to the cross He opened the road to 'bring many sons to glory.'

Of course the our illustration is not perfect. Daniel Boone suffered only the struggles and toils of a wilderness. Jesus, in our Father's deep love, suffered the agony of the cross.

The song 'How Deep the Father's Love For Us' puts it well:

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Praise God that the pioneer of our salvation brings many sons to glory. And praise Him that I am on of them. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

But 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 2:9

We may not always be able to see how everything is under Jesus’ feet. That may not always be clear.

But we do see Jesus. At least we should see Jesus. We should see Him wherever we go and whatever we do.

The only problem here is when we choose to see everything else instead of choosing to see Jesus. We see all of our trials and troubles and bothers and hard times and difficulties when we could instead look unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith.

Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. He is here no matter what we choose to see.

Why don’t we just choose to look at Him instead of all the distracting junk?  

The following is from a poem called ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate.’ It is a great reminder of how we are to always and forever keep our eyes on Jesus.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness

of the Creator of creation.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Under His feet

"The Son Made Lower than Angels
For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels. 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?
You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” 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."  - Hebrews 2:5-8

This old world can be a confusing place. It really is a mess. As believers sometimes we wonder what in the world can be going on. We read about how God is in control and all that - but it sure doesn't seem like God is in control.

Yet, there it is in black and white - 'you have put all things in subjection under his feet.' This same idea of all things being under Jesus' feet also shows up in letters to the Corinthians and the Ephesians.

Everything is indeed under Jesus’ control and authority. There is nothing that is not under His control.

Why then does bad seem to win sometimes? Why does evil seem to prevail?

I think that the key is in the last part of the verse – ‘We do not yet see all things put under him’

Just because we don't see it all the time doesn't mean it is not true. When our children were younger they did not always see what we were doing. They didn’t always understand. They didn’t know that we had things under control.

Sure, it takes faith to understand how Jesus has it under control, but He does. He already has it sorted. One day we will see it clearly – for now we have to trust. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

How shall we escape?

​ Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" - Hebrews 2:1-4

Hebrews is an interesting book with a lot of deep theology. It has been debated and argued of and fought about for many centuries. I am not nearly theologian enough to figure out all the answers found there. There is a regular question here about the security of salvation. I think the rest of the scriptures teach that our salvation is eternal and secure so when I read this book I view it in that light.

When the author of Hebrews wrote he wrote to both professors and true possessors. He wanted to make sure that the professors become possesors. He knew that many of them were in danger of hearing the word of God, enjoying the fellowship, and looking like everyone, and yet still allowing the things they had heard to slip away and to miss God's reward.

The question is rhetorical. How can those who have come so close to the truth and yet let the truth slip away escape the judgement of God apart from true salvation?

They can't. Christ gave the plan of salvation. It has been confirmed by the truly saved. God bore witness to the truth with many signs and wonders.

Each of us needs to make sure for sure for sure that we are truly in the faith so that what we have doesn’t slip away and that we do indeed escape the wrath of God.

If we have put our faith in Christ and trusted Him and Him alone – that’s it. We are done. If not today is the day to make sure. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Ministering spirits

 they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?" - Hebrews 1:14

I don't know a whole lot about angels. I know they exist. I know they have existed since Creation. I know that they guarded the ark. I know the served as messengers. I know they battled over the body of Moses. I know that they are involved with geographic regions. I know that they wish they could understand salvation. 

But I don't know a whole lot about what they do now. 

But the Bible says that these ministering spirits minister to the heirs of salvation. 

I'm not sure how that works, but I do have an anecdote where I think they did so for my family and me. 

Many years ago we were driving home from a meeting in Mississippi. It was late and it was pouring rain. We crested a hill and there was a poorly marked railroad crossing. By the time we saw it there was a train's headlight right outside our window. I knew that we were all dead.

Suddenly the car surged forward in what felt like a miraculous surge. The kids could not believe we were alive. 

Ministering spirits ministering to our family? I don't know, but this verse let's me know that it was more than pospossible. 

They do minister, and maybe this was an example. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

You are the same

" And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You remain;
And they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will fold them up,
And they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not fail.”
But to which of the angels has He ever said:
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?" - Hebrews 1:10-13

Everything changes. Don't we all understand that? On our trip back to the US this last couple of weeks it is obvious that things change. We get older and our friends get older. Grey air or no hair is on many heads. Some folks have died and death is a real part of the world's decay. Our children grow up. Our children have children. Things are not the same. Our society and our cultures change. 

I think Rascal Flatts captures it in his song 'Mayberry' - Sometimes it feels like this world is spinning faster than it did in the old days. So naturally we have more natural disasters from the strain of a fast pace.' 

I like the phrase here about how the heavens are growing old like a garment like an old cloak that we fold up and replace. A couple of weeks ago, at Mary's insistence, I retired an old worn out pair of jeans. They had grown thread bare and faded just like this old world is doing. After the last time I wore them Mary took them, folded them up, and laid them aside. 

That is what is happening to this old world. It is wearing out. It is coming apart at the seams. It is getting old and worn out. One day it will be put away. 

But there is someone who doesn't change. 

The Father says of the Son - 'you are the same, your years will not fail.' 

Jesus never changes. When everything else is falling apart we have the blessed knowledge that there is one Unchangeable that we can hold on to. 

May I have the strength to hold on the the Unchangeable One. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A sceptre of righteousness

But to the Son He says:
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”"

The sceptre of course is a symbol of authority and power. Monarchs carry their sceptre to show that they are in charge. 

Jesus, our forever and ever King, carries a sceptre of authority. His sceptre is notable because it is a sceptre of righteousness. That simply means that Jesus's power and His reign are righteous. To put it simply His sceptre symbolises and He always does what is right. 

Sometimes that takes a lot of faith to accept. In my eyes God's righteousness does not seem right. 

I realise that the reason for this is that I am not God. I see things from my own flawed perspective. God's ways are far above my ways and His thoughts above my thoughts. I can't think like Him so I can't always figure it out. 

But the God of righteousness always does what is right. This is really one of those faith things. When it doesn't seem like things are going right or doing rightly I must rest in the fact that his ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts and that He is right no matter what. 

Praise God that my King is always going to riegn righteously. May God give the the strength to trust Him to do it. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Foerever and ever

But to the Son He says:
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.”" - Hebrews 1:8-9

'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.'

Forever and ever. 

I like the idea of 'forever and ever'. No matter what comes in to my life of what happens in this old world Christ is still on the throne. 

Habakkuk had the same kind of problem that I do. He couldn't understand why his world was seemingly falling apart. After talking to God he chose to sit back and wait for God to work because 'He is in His holy temple' and the world needs to sit back, be quiet, and watch God work. 

And then Habakkuk, at the very end of his book says 

Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer's feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

No matter what comes in to my life Christ is still King of Kings and He is still Lord of Lords. He is still King of my life and He will carry me through. 

Therefore, even if my fig trees dry up and my livestock all die I will still strive to rejoice in the Lord because He can allow me to live above all the trials and struggles of this world. 

He is still there and in control. And He will be forever and ever and ever - amen. 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The goodness of usness

"The Son Exalted Above Angels
For to which of the angels did He ever say:
“You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You”? And again:
“I will be to Him a Father,
And He shall be to Me a Son”?
But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:
“Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
And of the angels He says:
“Who makes His angels spirits
And His ministers a flame of fire.”
But to the Son He says:
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom." - Hebrews 1:5-8

I don't know if any of us will ever grasp the concept of the Trinity. It is way beyond our ken. How God the Son can be begotten by God the Father and be not only the Son of God but also God is more than my more feeble mind is able to grasp. In this passage God the Father addresses God the Son as God. If we believe the Bible the deity of Christ cannot really be in doubt. I don't 'get it' but I think there is a lesson for us. 

I read a book recently by Michael Reeves. He is going to be our speaker next year at a Christian workers conference in Ireland. In America the book is called 'Delighting in the Trinity' and in the UK it is called 'The Good God: Enjoying the Father, Son, and Spirit.' In this book Reeves makes some applications that really helped me undestand just a tiny bit more about the Trinity. 

Reeves' concept of the Trinity is that God is a God of relationship. From the very beginning we read of God saying 'Let Us make man in Our image.' God said that it was not good that man is alone, so He did something about it.  A little later He says 'let Us go down and confuse their language.' 

It is clear that there is an inherent 'usness' of God. Relationship was a part of God's plan from the very beginning because it is a part of who He is. It is a part of His very nature. 

God evidences the goodness of usness at the very start when He created both man and woman so that there would not be aloneness. Cultures and societies are a part of how we live. After Christ He gave us the church and we call each other 'brother' and 'sister.' He calls us His children, 

God never intended us to be alone. 

At yet all around us are lonely people. As the children of a Triune God we need to remember that there is a goodness about usness. God wants us to reach out to those who have no usness. Jesus prayed that we would all be one just as He and the Father are one. It is Hid desire that everyone enter that eternal usness and He has commissioned us to share that message with all those around. 

Thank God for this little tidbit to remind us that usness is a part of God's plan and that usness in a part of His goodness. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

He purged our sins

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 11.3 

There are a lot of wonderful little phrases in the scripture. Many of them kind of jump out and grab us as we pass by them. This is one of those phrases - 'He, by Himself, purged our sins.' 

Jesus purged our sins. That means that He was totally washed us clean of every sin. 

Of all of the marvelous works of our loving and holy God the greatest to me has to be the purging of my sins. I know me, I know my heart, I know the wickedness from which I was delivered. What great power to purge me of my sins. 

He purged my sins. He washed me clean. His blood paid the price of every single sin. 

Praise God I am clean. 

'My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought, my sin, not in part, but the whole - is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, oh my soul.' 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Upholder

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 11.3 

Do you ever wonder how it is all going to work out? Sometimes it just doesn't seem like there is an answer. Sometimes it all seems impossible. Sometimes it just seems like there really is no way. 

And if we had to do these things in our own power there very well might be no way. Our own power seems to always let us down. 

But we don't have to worry about doing things in our own power. 

We have the the All-powerful Creator of the universe as our Upholder. As Upholder Jesus of all things Jesus shoulders the burden of the world. He carries every weight and every woe and every care simply by the word of His power. But, we must remember, this is the same word that said 'let there be light.' It is the same word that said to the storm 'peace, be still.' 

It is the all-powerful word that holds it all together and nothing is impossible for Him. He is well able to uphold us even in the most dangerous storm. 

So when I think the foundation is crumbling may I always remember that a Force stronger than the force of destruction is holding it all together and we can depend on the Upholder to keep upholding. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

The brightness of His glory...

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 11.3 

We have looked several times at how this whole world is locked in the darkness of sin. As we look around we see all kinds of evidence of that truth. People are openly doing things that were a shame to speak of just a few years ago. The darkness is causing people to wander and stumble and do all kinds of insane things because they don't have any path or any direction. 

A few (read 'a lot') of years ago I had made Eagle Scout and was up for the initiation for something called the Order of the Arrow. As part of that exercise we had a survival night and we had to move to a certain point without any light. It was cloudy night and I remember theutter darkness and how hard it was to go in the right direction. I tripped and stumbled and fell and went the wrong way. It was a mess. 

That is where the world is today. They are on that dark trail with no light, so they try every direction trying to find their way. 

And people stumble and fall and make mistakes because of the darkness. 

But Jesus came as the brightness of the glory of the Godhead into this dark world. He is the perfect impression of all of the Godhead. He came to provide the light of salvation to this dark, dark world. 

When we see people in darkness rather than condemn and hate and ridicule ought we not to show them the brightness of the glory of God in Christ? If I had had a light on the trail all those years ago it would have saved me all kinds of trouble. 

People are on that dark trail today. We have all the brightness everyone needs. 

Let's share that brightness with all those around us. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Heir of all things

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;  - Hebrews 1.1-2

God has always wanted to communicate with His people. He chose 'in times past' to use His prophets but now He is speaking through His Son, Jesus Christ. Not only did and does He speak through the words of Christ, but Christ, as the Creator of all things has been made the heir of all the things. 

It is the 'heir of all things' that is a blessing to us. 

How does that happen? How is the fact that Christ is the heir of all things apply to us? 

It is because in Romans 8.17 we are told that we are not only heirs, but we are joint heirs with Christ. 

The fact that we have we share in Christ's inheritance is almost more than I can comprehend. Through His death, burial and resurrection He has opened the door to all the riches of heaven for us. 

Praise God that Jesus is the heir of all things, that He has made us joint heirs with Him, and that He preserves that inheritance for us. 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

As a brother

I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, who once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me. I am sending him back. You therefore receive him, that is, my own heart, whom I wished to keep with me, that on your behalf he might minister to me in my chains for the gospel. But without your consent I wanted to do nothing, that your good deed might not be by compulsion, as it were, but voluntary. For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. – Philemon 1.10-16

I like a lot of things about being a Christian. I have never looked back to the 14th of February 1974 and regretted my decision to accept Christ as my Saviour. One of the things I really like is the familiship of the body of Christ. We have been back in Alabama for a few days on a short trip to visit family and visit churches. Here in the south there is a long tradition of calling each other 'brother' and 'sister.' I have heard it a lot in the couple of churches we have been in so far. I like it - it like using brother and sister because that is what we are. 

When Paul wrote to Philemon he appealed to Philemon to do something very difficult. 

Onesimus was Philemon's slave. He had run away and escaped to Rome. There he came under the influence of Paul's gospel message nad had been saved. After he was saved he stayed and ministered to Paul in his imprisonment. He had been profitable to Paul and Paul knew Onesimus would be a blessing to Philemon. 

So he asked Philemon to receive Onesimus, not as a slave - but now as a beloved brother. What a challenge that must have been - but that is what Paul asked. 

I wonder if Paul thought back to the day when Ananias had come to the place where he was staying. Ananias was frightened because he knew Paul as an enemy of the church. Do you remember what Ananias said when he met Saul? He said 'Brother Saul.' 

Think of that - an enemy became a brother. 
Think of this situation - a former slave became a brother. 

Through Christ those of every nation and background and race and colour and ethnicity and culture and economic status become brother and sister. 

'As a brother' - what  a wonderful thing to be. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

A loving appeal

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—I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten while in my chains, - Philemon 1.8-10

Paul is an interesting character. He can be both very bold and forceful and tender and compassionate. He has the apostlic authority to, as he puts it, to command others what to do. 

When Paul wrote to Philemon you see his tenderness, his love, his compassion, and his humility. I think there is a quick and simple lesson on spiritual leadership here. 

But for love's sake he chose to appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus. 

Although there is, shall we say, a polite reminder of Paul's authority, he lovingly asks Philemon to deal with the situation properly. We'll see more of that tomorrow, but for the moment let us all remember Paul's example to appeal in love instead of demanding with authority. Paul is far from the near dicatator power with which some of us are tempted to lead. 

Loving appeals get a lot more accomplished with a lot less negative response - and love ought to be enough to motivate any of us. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Sharing our 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, that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. . – Philemon 1.4-7

I like to study the life of Philemon. We know that there is a book with his name on it and we might know what the book is about, but I like to read what Paul says about the character of his friend. 

We know that Philemon is the kind of friend who made Paul thankful to know him and here we see why. Philemon was known and appreciated for his love and his faith. That is quite a combination for a believer. Philemon demonstated his faith and his love toward both Gof and others. His faith in God allowed him to trust God enough to love others and that love refreshed the hearts and lives of other believers. 

Paul mentions to Philemon the importance of the 'sharing of his faith' and he ties that sharing into Philemon's testimony. The sharing of his faith was only made effective by his own faith and love for others. 

It is easy to talk about sharing our faith to mean only telling others about Christ. But sharing our faith is so much more than that. We can share all we want but unless people see our love and our faith our sharing is going to be ineffective. The sharing of our faith requires that we have the faith to trust God to do His work and it requires that we love other people and that we show them our love. 

Of course sharing our faith requires our words. Faith only comes by hearing the word of God. But our words must be backed up by our own faith and our own love. 

Is our sharing made effective by love and faith? If not, can we really call it sharing?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

I thank God for you

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… For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother. – Philemon 1.4-7

Philemon is a wonderful, precious little book. It is a letter where you really see the affection between two friends. 

'I thank God for you.' 

How precious those words are. How encouraging it is when someone says to us 'I thank God for you.' 

I see a couple of things here. 

Paul was grateful for his friends. He was thankful for those who had been and were a part of his ministry. There is a reminder here that we ought to be grateful for our own friends. I am learning that there are few things as valuable as a good solid Christian friend. 

Then, I wonder if I am the kind of friend that people are thankful for. I ought to be the kind of person that makes other people thankful for me. 

There are a lot of things to be thankful for, not the least of which is each other. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

A do gooder

And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.  – Titus 3.14

When I tend to think of maintaining good works my thoughts tend to go to doing the 'spiritual works.' You know what I mean - pray and go to church and share my faith and read my Bible and all that kind of thing. There is no doubt that all those things are important and surely are doing good works. Don't get me wrong, we need to all those things and not let up and stay at. 

But there is more to doing good works and it is just as spiritual. 

Here Paul writes to Titus to remind him to encourage the people to 'meet urgent needs' so that their lives and ministires would be fruitful. There is more to a godly life than just being 'spiritual.' In fact, I don't think we can truly be spiritual unless we are doing other needed things. 

Barnes puts it this way - 'Margin, profess honest trades. The Greek will admit of the interpretation in the margin, or will include that, but there is no reason why the direction should be supposed to have any special reference to an honest mode of livelihood, or why it should be confined to that. It rather means, that they should be distinguished for good works, including benevolent deeds, acts of charity, honest toil, and whatever would enter into the conception of an upright life.' 

I like that. Our lives should be seen to be 'do gooders' though that phrase may not be too popular. Christians should be the best do gooders there are because that is they way to really bear fruit. We can preach and share and teach all we want, but if our words of love and charity are not backed up with good works then we are really spinning our wheels. Our meeting the urgent needs of others means that we strive to meet all the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs that we encounter. These are all urgent - not just the spiritual need for salavation. 

So let's be careful that our good works are practical and not just spiritual. 

And let's keep it up and maintain those works through our lives. 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Dumb fights

But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.  – Titus 3.9-11

It looks like Timothy was not the only young preacher to have a problem with get involved in stupid fights. 

Here are those oft repeated words again

Avoid foolish disputes
Avoid geneologies 
Avoid contentions
Avoifd striving about the law

I don't know what the draw is. I don't know why it is so tempting to get into a fight over the most petty things. I know that I really like this kind of thing and I like it to the point where I can become consumed with it. I don't know how many wasted hours I spent on stupid arguments about the dumbest stuff on a "Christian' discussion board or arguing with my brethren before I finally had enough. 

Why is it so bad? It really is a waste of time to argue about stuff that doesn't have an answer. Fights have been going on for centuries. Who are we to think that we are going to come up with an answer?  Iron does indeed sharpen iron - but silly squabbles don't do anything good. 

There are so many non-essentials that we make inot essentials just to get into a good fight. 

Fight the good fight - of course - but don't fight over the stupid stuff. 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Maintain good works

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.  – Titus 3.8

Sometimes we can think that because we are not saved by good works and we are not kept saved by good works that they are not that big a deal. We might think they are an optional part of our Christian lives. But good works are a part of our lives because of what Christ did for us. It was indeed ordained before the foundation of the world that those who have been saved will do good works.

But it is easy to get discouraged while doing good works. We can wonder why we bother and why we keep doing it.

I think that is what Paul uses such strong words – this is a faithful saying. I want you to affirm this constantly.

All those who have believed in God need to be careful to maintain their good works. We are probably not going to be superstars. Very few are going to know of our good works outside of our immediate circles. Our good works will probably never be recognised.

But that should not be our motive. Our motive is found in the word of God

Be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord because you know your labour for God is not in vain

Don’t be weary in good, for in due season you will reap if you do not lose heart

See that we have this ministry we do not lose heart.

So keep it up, maintain good works – just stay at it and wait for God’s reward. 

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Mercy, grace, and hope

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3.3-7

According to what? What would happen if God saved me according to my birth? What would happen if God saved me according to my wealth? Would it do much good if I was saved according to my good works?

Thank the Lord that those things are not the basis for God’s kindness and love to be poured out. It is all according to one thing – according to His mercy He saved us.

We were all in the same boat before Christ. Not all of us were all of the things talked about in this passage, but all of us were some of them. We look at a world that is still without Christ. How exactly do we expect them to act? But for God’s mercy being poured out on us we would all still be in the same boat.

Bus God did pour out His mercy. He didn’t just dribble it out - He poured it out. He didn’t pour out just a bit – He poured it out abundantly.

God’s mercy was poured out and His mercies are new every morning. We have been justified by His amazing wonderful grace. And because of that we are ‘heirs together’ with the assured hope of eternal life.

Mercy, grace, and assured hope.

Does it get any better than that? 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Remind them to be nice

Remind them to get along

[Remind them] to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. – Titus 3.2

Just a few days ago I was following a series of Facebook posts by a Christian friend. The person was having a conflict with another believer and was posting things publicly on Facebook and making all sorts of harsh statements. I approached my friend and they pulled down what they had posted with a sweet spirit. That person just got carried away.

That was something of a wakeup call and it really caught my attention. I suspect that every single one of us has been in situations where we are tempted to act the same way and we may even have carried through. 

If you have ever seen Christians in a word fight you know what I am talking about.  I have seen some arguments and debates among professing believers that are much more than embarrassing. Like my friend we can all embarrass the church and hurt the cause of Christ by our words and actions.

But look at these words:

Don’t speak evil of anyone (anyone?)
Be peaceable
Be gentle
Show humility to all men

In other words we need to do all we can do to get along. There is no room for this evil speaking or fighting or ugliness or pride.

Christians should never, ever be the ones with the ugly names and insults and contempt. The friend I mentioned doesn’t have much of an example, especially on social media.

We Christians may very well be more seen than we ever have been because of Facebook and Twitter and all the rest. I wonder how our own feeds would look if we never said anything evil about anyone. I wonder what would happen if every post was motivated by being a peacemaker. What would happen if gentleness was the tone for our posts? How often is sweet humility seen from us online?

Obviously all of these points should be adhered to in our every conversation as well. But in 2014 social media is the way many of us are seen the most in public and sadly it is the place where it is easiest for large numbers of people to see our speech and attitudes.

Let’s try to apply these four simple principles to all we say, all we write, and all we post online. Let us give no one cause to despise us because of what we say. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Remind them to obey

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, - Titus 3.1

I think being subject to authority grates on all of us a bit. No one really likes to be told what to do. We would all rather do it our own way.

But it is not too hard to submit when someone when people lead the way we like. If leaders are treating us right and respecting us and allowing us to live the way we want and worship and serve God and take care of our families and such it is pretty easy to be subject to rulers and authorities.

But what happens when they don’t lead that way.

What happens when leaders try to take away our ‘rights’ and raise our takes and limit our freedoms and stand behind wickedness and immorality? What happens when our leaders reject our Christian ethos or even oppose it?

I think it is clear. ‘Be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey…’ In our modern democracies we have the option to express our disagreements and opinions and try to change them. But, when all is said and done, we are to be subject and obey - even if we don't 'like' it. 

The rest of the verse tells us why – because it prepares us to do every good work.

Submission means that we are trusting God no matter what we like or don’t like. We obey and then we trust God to sort out the rest. The only exception is when obedience forces us to disobey God.

If we can’t trust God to submit to and obey our rulers we will never have the faith to do a work for Him. 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Don't be despised

Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. – Titus 2.15

It is easy to be despised, isn’t it? People might despise us because we are young, or old, or we have a strange accent or different skin colour. Or maybe we are despised just because we are a peculiar people. People might just despise us because they are unkind or arrogant or proud.

But there are things we can do about it.

Our peculiar zeal ought to move us to speak, exhort and rebuke the world around us. We just keep on speaking and exhorting and rebuking. But we do these things in a way that does not hurt our testimony. We watch our speech. We are to be the kind of examples that Paul wrote to Timothy about so that no one has cause to despise us.

But I think there is something deeper here. We don’t allow ourselves to be despised because of the authority behind us. We are not speaking under our own authority.

When Jesus left He authorised us to do His work. He promised to go with us as He sent us into the world to preach His gospel.

We need not be despised because the message we preach is God’s and the authority to proclaim it comes from Him.

So let’s keep at it. We don’t need to be despised because the only acceptance that matters is from God – not man.  

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Peculiar people

 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself ta people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.  – Titus 2.11-14 (KJV) 

I chose the KJV this morning for one particular word in the translation in verse 14. The NKJV has ‘His own special people.’ The ESV says ‘his own possession.’

But I like the KJV’s use of the word ‘a peculiar people.’

That word has a different idea today than it did in 1611. Today ‘peculiar’ has the idea of strange or unusual or perhaps ‘unique.’ Most of us would not like to be seen as peculiar today.

But, in another way, maybe it isn’t such a bad word. We are different and unique and maybe just a little strange to the world. But in 1611 the word was just changing meanings. In that day that meaning was a title of property that meant something belonged specifically to one person.

And that point here. Because we are peculiar in the old sense – we are Jesus’s special precious possession – we are going to appear peculiar in the modern sense of the word.

We are Christ’s particular possession. Because He is the Creator God of the universe in a sense everything and everyone is His. But we are peculiarly His. We are His in a special personal precious peculiar way.

So call me peculiar, I really don’t mind.

But because we are peculiar we ought to be zealous about our work for Him. Our zeal ought to make the zeal for sports or politics or whatever pale in comparison. A lot of us our zealous about which sports team we support – but are we that zealous about Christ?

We are a peculiar people – that is done whether we like it or not. But does that peculiarity move us to be zealous in our work for Christ? 

Friday, 3 October 2014

Redeemed and purified

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 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 2.11-14

The grace of God brought salvation. It appeared to all men. It teaches is how to live. It encourages us to live looking for His coming. 

And one day it will totally redeem us and totally purify us. 

Oh what a wonderful day that will. True, when we were saved were redeemed from the penalty of sin and declared pure with the blood of Christ. True, we are daily redeemed from the power of sin and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. That is a great blessing. 

But on that great and glorious day when of the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ we will be redeemed from the power of sin and be as pure as our Saviour. 

I have to say that I look forward to that day. I am so weary of battling my flesh. I am sick of me and my impure thoughts and actions and attitudes. I long for the day when my purification will be totally accomplished. I long for the completion of my redemption from sin and the flesh. 

What a day that will be, when my Jesus I will see. When I look upon the face of the One who saved me by His grace. When He takes me by the hand  to lead me to the Promised Land. What a day, what a glorious day, that will be. 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Live looking

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 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 2.11-14

There is a lot of talk in our circles about the Second Coming of Christ. Thirty or forty years ago it was really big. There is a lot of speculation even now about when He is coming back and the signs of the times and all of that kind of thing. I suppose there is not much harm in that and it can serve a purpose in motivating folks to serve.

But the reality is we really have no idea when Christ will return. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, right after he talked about the rapture, he told them that wasn't going to write about the signs and wonders because that is not what they really needed.

What they needed way back then, and what we really need now, is just to trust the word of God and live every day as though Jesus was coming back today. That has been the motivation since Jesus ascended to heaven and the angels said 'why are you standing here looking? Jesus is coming back, now get busy!'

The grace of God teaches us to live in certain ways, hating the things of the world and living godly lives. Our motivation to do that is that we live every day looking for His return.

We don’t need to worry too much about the when – it could happen any day. All we need to do is to live every day as though it were today.

How that would change our lives! 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Teaching us

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 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 2.11-14

The grace of God did not 'just' appear bringing salvation. The grace of God also teaches us a few things. The grace of God replaces the Law of God in teaching us how to live.

Deny ungodliness
Deny worldly lusts
Live soberly
Live righteously
Live godly

And then he says 'do this in this present age.'

This is the simple instruction on grace living while we wait for Jesus to return.

Grace living is not bound by the Law. Grace living is what happens in response the the grace that God has shown. It is not a bunch of rules and regulations. It is a statement of how the grace of God is manifested in our lives. We no longer fear the wrath of God, but we are grateful for His grace and the power to live for Him. Grace living means that we stop living in self-serving ways, but we choose to live lives that honour Christ.

And, to be honest, all of these things are good for us. Think of the world of trouble we could save ourselves if we turned away from ungodly living and destructive worldly lusts. Think about if, instead, we were self-controlled, doing right, and striving to be godly in our actions. Those things would certainly help us to avoid all kinds of troubles from our own actions.

Apart from the grace of God these things would not be possible. But God's grace teaches us how to do it.