The Hope that does not disappoint!

Romans 5 

“In the whole Bible there is hardly another chapter which can equal this triumphant text.”  Martin Luther 

As soon as I ran across this statement I knew that Romans 5 would have some exciting things to give us.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2 ESV) 

The faith we have in Jesus is what brings us peace. That faith is also what allows us to live in His grace and to rejoice in His Hope. 

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) 

There it is, one of those times that Paul is telling us to “rejoice in our sufferings”. Kind of like James with “count it all joy” I must admit there is discomfort when I first read passages like this. How can I rejoice in my sufferings? How is it that I can count things joyful when things seem so messed up. Whether it be in my personal life, or in the world at large. Doesn’t it seem crazy to count it joy and to rejoice when suffering comes. Let’s take our children. We would love for them to grow up and never know suffering and to never have a bad day and to always succeed at everything. To always get the trophy so to speak. But we learn and they learn through hardship and through not always winning and through some amount of suffering. Suffering produces endurance. When you suffer at something, when you have to work a little harder at something it produces endurance. You have to keep at it, you have to have discipline. That endurance and the discipline it takes to endure, produces character. Someone’s character is who they are at their core. Wouldn’t it be nice if God just gave us those things without us having to work at them. But God cares more about who we are down deep, our character than to do that and He knows that some of us have to learn these lessons the hard way and some even harder than others. But it produces Hope in us when we do learn the lessons of suffering, endurance and character. God’s Hope, not just a fly by night I hope things turn out okay. When bad things happen and I can look back at the way God has answered past hardships that I have endured I can hope all the more in the present day trials. 

Hope in Jesus does not put us to shame. Some translations say does not disappoint. When we accept Jesus we have the love of God poured into us through the Holy Spirit. We just have to cling to that hope and that love. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. Jesus came to fulfill the law because there was no way that we, in our human flesh, could ever keep the law to the point of staying in relationship with God. We do not have to get it all right in order to become a Christian. He died for sinners. He died for us. We are reconciled to God by the death of Jesus. And in that we do not have to endure the wrath of God. We are saved by Jesus. We have Hope in Jesus that will not disappoint us.

Paul goes on explaining how sin came into the world through Adam, through one man. Not through the law. Again, the law was a measure of sin. Death reigned before God ever gave Moses the law. Adam brought sin into the world. However, Jesus and His death on the cross is what justifies us and reconciles us and gives us the gift of peace and the gift of hope and grace!

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17)

The victory of this chapter is in the last few verses. One man, Adam brought sin into the world. We are sinful by nature, babies are born sinful. Sin is something that reigns in our life until we accept Jesus. The Holy Spirit will work in a nonbelievers life to draw them to a saving relationship with Jesus. But once the sinful man is justified through Christ, they can have victory over their sinful nature. 

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:18-21)

Jesus thank you for giving your life for us! Thank you for your Peace! Thank you for your Grace! Thank you for your Hope! 

Hope against hope!

Romans 4

The Jews of those days revered Abraham as the Father of Faith. Therefore Paul used Abraham in his writing to clarify to the Romans his thoughts on faith and works. He brings up Abraham in the first verse of this chapter. 

“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” (Romans 4:1-2 ESV)

In other words, he is telling them think about Abraham. If you know of anyone who can be justified with God because of his works it would be Abraham. He worked for God, he did what God said to do. So he can boast to God about what he did for God, right? Wrong! No one can boast to God about their works. 

“For what does the scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’”(Romans 4:3)

Abraham is the father of the faith because Abraham believed God. Plain and simple. Not because of his works but simply because he believed God. 

Paul also goes on in this chapter to explain to the christians in Rome that Abraham is the father of faith to all, not just to the Jewish people. 

He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:11-12) 

Circumcision was a seal for the Jewish people. It signified that they were a Jew that they were one of God’s chosen people. What Paul is pointing out here is that Abraham was given the seal of his circumcision because of his faith, not so that he would have faith. Therefore he became the father of faith before the circumcision even occurred. Therefore he is a father of all who have faith in God. 

“as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’-in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, ‘So shall your offspring be’” (Romans 4:17-18)

This phrase jumped out at me today “In hope he believed against hope”. What do you have today that you are hoping for, believing for, against hope. When Abraham was told that he would be the father of many nations, he and Sarah were childless, and because of their age it was not likely that they would conceive and/or that Sarah would be able to carry a child. Yet when God told Abraham he would be the father of many nations, he believed him. Do you have something that you are believing God for? That you are hoping for against all hope. Friends you can hope in God. You can believe God. Place your hope in him against any and all hope that you may have otherwise. Abraham grew stronger in his faith as he gave glory to God. 

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness’”.  (Romans 20-21)

Abraham chose to believe God when he told him he would be the father of many nations. He may not have known exactly how it would come about, because in his mind, he and Sarah were too old to have children. However, he was fully convinced that God could do what he promised. Grab hold of that, choose to believe God for your circumstances, lay it at the foot of the cross whatever is on your heart today. I can’t promise how God will work it out. But I can tell you that the things in my life that I have laid at his cross and begged him to work out for me, he has done it. It may not always work out like I thought it would before but it works out better than I could have ever thought or imagined. We get to have this faith, that Abraham had also. 

“But the words, ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4:23-25

Lord help us as we hope against hope to believe in your promises. Help us Lord to know that you have our best interests at heart and that when we lay those things at your feet that we may have lost hope for that we have this hope in Jesus because of what He did for us on the cross. Lord work those things out for us for your glory and for your good. Amen

Justified by Grace

Romans 3

Paul has sent this letter to Rome to encourage the Romans. In this chapter of the letter he anticipates some of the questions that they may have been asking based on the first 2 chapters. It seems to me that he realizes that some of what he has said may be going over their heads so to speak or confusing them. The Jewish people knew they were God’s chosen people. They were the ones who had been given the law and the rituals to keep and had handed down for generations these practices and rituals. They had some beautiful traditions that in their minds justified them and made them feel closer to God. Paul is preaching to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles and in so doing some of the Jewish people may have been feeling a little torn. Because they were used to the traditions and they were used to the rituals but is Paul saying that none of that is important anymore. “By no means!” Paul points out that the faithfulness of God is not based on our faithfulness nor our faithlessness. 

“By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar…” Romans 3:4

This is such a comfort to me. God is true whether I am living in my faith or struggling in my faith. No matter what is going on in the world or around me. No matter if there is a Coronavirus, or people who do right or don’t do right. God is true! 

Paul also seems to be pointing out that when unrighteousness abounds that God’s righteousness is magnified. However he also addresses in this that there are some people who might actually try to use that as a means to excuse their own unrighteousness. They, in their thinking may be saying God would be unrighteous to inflict His wrath on us since our unrighteousness shows His righteousness. Again, 

“By no means! For then how could God judge the world?” Romans 3:6

We talked a bit about God’s judgment yesterday and I mentioned that I would much rather fall under God’s judgment than mans. God judges rightly and He is always compassionate, fair and true. One day we will all fall under God’s judgment. We must always be careful not to twist the grace that God gives so freely as a license to sin or to remain the same. Yes God’s righteousness and God’s grace is a free gift to us but the point is to make us better, not to justify us because “I am who I am”. 

The second part of this chapter points out to us that “None are righteous”. What I think and what I glean from reading in several translations and commentary is this. The law was given to the Jewish people and they thought that their possession of the law is what justified them. Paul is pointing out that they are not righteous because of the law, nor are the Gentiles righteous because they don’t have the law (nor the traditions) as their gauge. The law was given to point out sins. It is a measure to use. Verses 10 – 17 show man’s depravity and the many ways that man sins against God. But it is all men, not just the Jew, not just the Gentile, but all men! But also just being a good person and keeping the law will not justify you. 

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20

We can’t keep enough rules and regulations to make us right in Him. But there is good news here in the latter part of this chapter. 

God gave us the law and He gave us the prophets in order to bear witness to sin. But God gave us His righteousness through Jesus that through our faith in Him there is no distinction anymore. 

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23-24)

I have known verse 23 for years and have had it memorized and have quoted it, but why oh why have have I not been quoting the whole thought? Yes we all sin and yes we all fall short of his glory but oh how exciting that we are justified by his grace. If you believe in Jesus He has redeemed you! Already! Jesus came to be the propitiation of our sin, by his blood. That word, propitiation just means substitute sacrifice. He was our sacrifice, through His blood on the cross we can have faith. This was to show God’s righteousness and it is to be our justifier if we have faith in Jesus. God is the God of Jews and the God of Gentiles. 

“since God is one – who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary we uphold the law. (Romans 3:30-31)

Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you for sending Jesus to be my substitute sacrifice for my sins. Thank you Lord for your grace. Lord, help me to uphold the law through the faith I have in you and by the grace you have so freely given. 

A Matter of the Heart!

Romans 2

In Romans 1 Paul laid out some things out for the Romans, that he was afraid they would look at and think well I’m not as bad as this guy so I must be ok. Paul wants to be sure in Romans 2 that they realize that instead of judging others they better be looking at themselves first. 

“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” Romans 2:1 ESV 

In Matthew it also warns us that we will be judged by the measure that we use on others against ourselves. (Matt 7:1-2)  I don’t know about you but the more I learn and know about God, I would much rather be “judged” by God than by man. Our measures are imperfect. We will quickly jump to conclusions or in our mind we will choose sides based on friendship and on how we feel about one person or another. But God is the same all the time, He knows the big picture, He knows your heart. God’s judgment is meant to lead you to repentance, whereas the judgment of man is condemning and it leads to guilt and shame. 

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

God’s kindness is so that he leads us to repentance. We are not driven there. I’ve often jokingly said that God had to hit me over the head with a 2X4 for something. But the more I know about God the more I realize that God doesn’t do that. He leads us to repentance. He draws us to himself, in his kindness and his patience and in his loving, gentle ways. He is not going to hit us over the head or to drive us to do anything. Oh make no mistake there is a wrath of God too. And the day will come that all who do and practice evil will fall under the judgment of God. But for those who seek God and his righteousness there will be glory and honor and peace. 

In the last part of Romans 2 Paul is talking about the law and God’s judgment that comes through the law. I read this passage over and over to try to gain understanding because I want to always handle God’s word rightly and to the best of my ability. What I gain from this is we will be judged by the matter of our hearts, not just the law. However, if you do know the law and if you teach and if you preach and if you boast in the laws of God and then you break these laws then you are dishonoring God. But let’s say there is someone who does not know the law, back in the days of the writing of Romans Paul was talking about the Gentiles. The Gentiles did not have the benefit of the Mosaic law handed down to them for centuries so what of them? What I think Paul is saying here is that it comes down to the heart. What is in your heart? Are you judging those who do not “keep” the laws and commandments of God based on what you know to be right and wrong? Or are you sweeping at your own back door first and realizing that the law was given to us as a measure but it’s what is in your own heart that God will look at. It’s not my place to judge you or to judge others. It is my place to show the lovingkindness of God to my fellow man. Even if I don’t necessarily see eye to eye with him. God is going to judge my heart by what I know. God is going to judge your heart by what you know. There is so much going on in the world right now and people are quick to be angry and everyone wants their own opinion to be your opinion. My question is what can I do every day to show Jesus love to my fellow man. My job is to show the lovingkindness of Jesus so that maybe it will be something you will see in me that you might want for yourself. I don’t want it to be about religion or about laws. I do want to teach, and I do want to keep the law of the Lord. But I want to do it out of love and I desire to do His will and work for Him out of my love for Him. 

But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man, but from God. (Romans 2:29 ESV)

Lord, I pray that I will keep the law based on what is in my own heart. I pray that I will leave the judging to You Lord, as You judge rightly and my measure is imperfect.

I am not ashamed!

Romans 1 

This first chapter of Romans starts out as Paul’s letters do, with a greeting and Paul stating his credentials and then a greeting to whom he is writing. The difference in the letter to the Romans and most of Paul’s other letters is that Paul planted the churches to which he was writing in most of his letters. But he did not plant the church in Rome. It is believed that there were Romans who were present at Pentecost and they returned to Rome and the church was birthed in Rome through those people. Therefore, the faith that came out of Rome was from that movement. Paul only knew of them because as stated in verse 8 their “faith is proclaimed in all the world.” Paul had been praying to go to Rome but something was preventing him. He tells them in this letter he wants to come to Rome so that they may be “mutually encouraged”. He recognizes however that at the time his main ministry is not in Rome. 

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17)

What is the righteousness of God? In my studying I read that the righteousness of God does not describe man as being righteous. The righteousness of God is something that we receive from God. It is a gift from God to man, not a description of man. I think as a human race we tend to think of righteousness in uncomfortable terms. We do not want to think of ourselves as righteous in that we think that would be pious or haughty. However when we realize that the righteousness that we receive from God as a free gift when we become christians it tends to compel us to want to live a more righteous life for God. Living righteously simply means living right in the grace that God has given us. 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18) 

There is a wrath of God to contend with when people go on living in ungodliness and unrighteousness. The commentary stated that ungodliness refers to sins committed against God and unrighteousness refers to sins of man against man. When we go on living however we choose, knowing that it is not right living it is suppressing the truth of God. I have heard people often say “this is just who I am” or “I am what I am” but “God loves me for it anyway”. This is suppressing the truth of who God is. Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins and He is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. It is true that we all sin and that we all fall short. However when you just excuse your sins and don’t work on them, lay them down and attempt to change within the power of God that you are given, then you are not living in the truth of who God is and what Jesus came to do for us. Yes God loves you (ME) anyway, however He expects me to work on those sins and to lay them down. This does not mean I will ever become sinless but that I will grow in Christ and some of the sins that I formerly committed will not be a struggle for me anymore. 

Basically, what I see is that we may all be at a different level in our christian walk. This is where in my opinion grace will come in. Someone who is a new christian may have sins that you if you are a more seasoned christian do not have. We must give grace to the one who is growing in their faith. But growth is the key. According to Paul in this first chapter, if you do not honor God nor give thanks to him for what he has done for you, then you have a foolish heart. God may give you over to a debased mind. And before we all get to pious thinking our sins aren’t as bad as someone else’s let’s look at the list. 

“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such tings deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:29-32) 

Ouch! I don’t know about you but my toes are sore. Lord forgive me for the things that are in my heart and the ways I have not honored you. Please help us to recognize what in this list may be ours and Lord, please help me to lay down to you what I need to change in my own life. 

Romans – the righteousness of God

ROMANS 

Three weeks ago when I dug into 1 and 2 Timothy I didn’t know how much I would enjoy unpacking Paul’s letter to Timothy and the church at Ephesus. I went on to Titus and the churches of the Cretans and the letter to Philemon. I wish now that I had started in order in the Bible or I had looked up the chronological order of Paul’s letters and worked through them that way but I didn’t. So what I WILL do is this. I will now go back to the book of Romans and start unpacking it one chapter at a time and see what God wants to say to me every day through Paul’s letter and what He lays on my heart to share. And I will work through each of Paul’s letters until I finish. I was going to start today with Chapter 1 of Romans but there was information that I truly wanted to give before I went any further. 

I am taking this from a commentary that I read through the “Blue Letter Bible” app. I found it to be so interesting about how the book of Romans made an impact on 3 great meant that I truly wanted to share it. Again, the words I am about to type are not my words. 

The importance and impact of Paul’s Letter to the Romans. 

  1. In the summer of 386, a young man wept in the backyard of a friend. He knew his life of sin and rebellion against God left him empty and felling dead; but he just couldn’t find the strength to make a final, real decision for Jesus Christ. As he sat, he heard children playing a game and they called out to each other these words: “Take up and read! Take up and read!” Thinking God had a message to him in the words of the children, he picked up a scroll laying nearby and began to read: ‘not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires’ (Romans 13:13b-14). He didn’t read any further, he didn’t have to. Through the power of God’s Word, Augustine gained faith to give his whole life to Jesus Christ at that moment. 
  2. In August of 1513, a monk lectured on the Book of Psalms to seminary students, but his inner life was nothing but turmoil. In his studies, he came across Psalm 31:1 “In thy righteousness deliver me.” The passage confused Luther; how could God’s righteousness do anything but condemn him to hell as a righteous punishment for his sins? Luther kept thinking about Romans 1:17, which says, “the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, He who through faith is righteous shall live.” The monk went on to say: ‘Night and day I pondered until… I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Therefore I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise… This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven” Martin Luther was born again, and Reformation began in his heart. 
  3. In May of 1738, a failed minister and missionary reluctantly went to a small Bible Study where someone read aloud from Martin Luther’s Commentary on Romans. As the failed missionary said later: “While he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for my salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken my sins away, even mine” John Wesley was saved that night in London. 

Taken from David Guzik, Bible Commentary, Blue Letter Bible App. 

When I read these 3 testimonies on Romans, my first inclination was to run far away from thinking I could write anything that would come close to those men’s testimonies. But then I just decided I wanted to share those with you before we begin unpacking this book. I am wondering and excited to see what God will teach us in Romans. I am also overwhelmed at the thought of it. I will start unpacking it Monday morning. Please pray with me that God will teach us and that He will give me the words to say. He has been faithful thus far, I can’t help but believe and have faith He’s got something to say to us through this letter from Paul to the Romans. 

Please pray for the service industry today. The restaurant industry, small businesses, the travel industry. And if you go out, please be sure to tip well. 

Meeting by Chance?

Philemon

This little book is the only letter of Paul’s that is in the Bible that is a letter to just an individual. Actually it is to Philemon and his family but it is not meant for a community. After reading commentary what can be gleaned from this letter is that Philemon had a slave that had fled his household and maybe went to Rome and met up with Paul. It is not known if he knew Paul before or if this was a chance meeting that they came to realize they had a mutual acquaintance in Philemon. Paul and Philemon were obviously friends. 

“I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers,”  Philemon 1:4 ESV

This verse lends to believing that Paul and Philemon have a history with Paul saying always. In fact it is believed that Paul had led Philemon and his family to Christ. At any rate Paul was in the habit of praying for Philemon. It wasn’t just a one time prayer. I had a friend once who really opened my eyes to prayer and she pointed out how many times someone may say “I’m praying for you” in passing and yet do they, do we really do it when we walk away? She also stated how many times does someone come back and say “hey thanks for praying” yet in the back of your mind you think “oh, I forgot”. Prayer is serious business. If I tell you I am praying for you, I’m going to pray for you. Sometimes it may be that I say “I’m going to say a prayer for you.” Then it may not go on my prayer list, (believe me it’s a long list) of the people I pray for on a regular basis, but I can assure you that if I say I will say a prayer I am going to say a prayer. Paul was in the habit of praying for Philemon so there was relationship there. 

Paul is appealing to Philemon and his family in this letter to forgive and to open themselves back up to Onesimus who had found Christ through his encounter with Paul and was returning to them possibly to make things right after having fled them and for anything he may have taken from them when he left. Now back in those days what Philemon had done could have been punishable by death, even possibly being crucified. But Paul was appealing to Philemon because now Onesimus was more than a worker to him, he was a brother in Christ. Paul points out that Philemon, as a christian has to ‘do what is required (v 8) but he wants Philemon to forgive and accept Philemon back out of love. 

“Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you – I Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus – I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.” (vv 9-10)

The things I love about this story is the underlying story. It never is clear if Onesimus knew Paul before he fled to Rome. But the people who have spent way more time than me studying seem to suggest that the meeting between Onesimus and Paul was a chance one. Onesimus fled Philemon as a different person than he was returning to him. In Rome he possibly went to work for the Roman officials who were guarding Paul while Paul was under house arrest. Paul apparently befriended him and led him to Christ. Even if he did know Paul before, it would be a stretch to think that he was seeking Paul out, I think. This gives me great comfort in the way I know God works behind the scenes. I have experienced myself chance meetings that turned out to not be so chance. That later I could look back and see God’s hand on it. I think, and I have told you before I am not scholar, but I think that God orchestrated this meeting. We never find out exactly how Philemon handled the return of Onesimus, I hope he handled it the way Paul appealed to him. I hope I will do the same if I am faced with people who I feel have hurt me in some way when and if they return for forgiveness. 

Please pray for your pastors and your churches. A lot more churches are opening up this weekend. I am praying for safety and for God to move in them. 

Only by Grace

Titus 3

This is my favorite chapter of the book of Titus. It starts out with Paul telling Titus to “remind them”. To me it seems that Paul is telling him to just keep on keeping on, keep telling them about Jesus but that also that they have to be submissive to the authority around them and to be prepared to do the work of Jesus. He tells him to avoid quarreling. This doesn’t mean to roll over, but to avoid it and to be gentle and to show courtesy to everyone. In other words BE KIND! But my favorite part is coming up. 

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7 ESV) 

We have been talking a lot in these chapters about how bad the Cretans were and how bad people are today and how bad the world is. Paul is telling Titus here remember what we came from! You see I know deep in my heart and in my soul that if I didn’t spend a little time with Jesus every single day that I would be a wretched wretched woman! That if left on my own and not reminded I also could get very pious very quickly. It feels like I could be walking a tight rope every day between thinking too much of myself to thinking too little of myself. I can be quick to get all spiritual or spiraling down a slippery slope to who knows what because of my wretchedness. We all need to remember what we came from. What did Jesus save us from? What path could we have taken? It’s real easy to get, as I said yesterday, on a spiritual high horse and if we aren’t careful to look down from it at those bad ole Cretans and think small of them. But that is not showing the love of Jesus. And when I really stop and think about some of the choices I made before I knew Christ and started walking with Him, I realize that where I am today is only by grace! That I was saved by His goodness and loving kindness and His mercy. And I have this hope only because of Him and who He is in my life. I never want to forget where I came from because it only proves to make me so grateful to Him. And out of that gratitude of what He has done for me makes me want to be a light for Him. I don’t want to sit up on a spiritual high horse. I want to remember, and I pray that I never look down on anyone for their choices and decisions because I realize how very close I was to making choices that could have destroyed me. I pray that I can be a light to show them Jesus’ love. Because I am who I am only by His grace. 

Lord Jesus I pray never let me forget, never let us forget what we came from. Help us to be kind and to be a light in this world and to show Your love and Your goodness to others Lord. Keep us off that spiritual high horse and walking with You Lord. Help us to remember who we belong to and that is only by Your grace and mercy! 

Please also pray for the educators and the students. Everyone is trying to answer the million dollar question. “What is school going to look like this year?” 

Lead by example!

Titus 2

Paul is giving directives for living, as well as teaching in this chapter. He is telling Titus first of all to teach sound doctrine. This is the first and foremost. He was to teach the older men and women how to live rightly with God. At first glance some of the directives we would think might have come along with age and wisdom anyway but we have to remember that he was in Crete and was there to teach the Cretans, who we have already pointed out had their own sets of issues. Then he tells him how the older men and women should train the younger men and women. One of the things that he points out is that in these things, in living upright self controlled lives we are bringing credit to the word of God. Or at least we are not bringing discredit to it. Basically as christians we are supposed to try to live in such a way that the outside world has nothing bad to say about us. We are to teach and to live by example. 

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned so that an opponent may be put to shame having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8 ESV) 

This just keeps reminding me of Jesus words. 

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:35 ESV

I find myself as I am trying to explain this chapter afraid that it is coming across very legalistic and I am always much much more about relationship than I am legalism. I feel like that if you get your relationship right with Christ, and if you spend time with him that He will show you what needs to change. However, there are things that are very important for us to remember as the world looks on us as christians. And some of the things that Paul points out to Titus here are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, love and steadfastness, the women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers nor “slaves to much wine”. This can sound like a list of do’s and don’ts, however when you dig a little deeper you know that the Cretans had been living pretty much however they wanted to. Titus was sent to be an example to them and to teach them how to live godly and upright lives. 

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. (Titus 2:11-12 ESV)

If ever in my lifetime did the church need to be setting itself apart living godly lives and being an example to others I believe it is now. It is always to be this way but now especially. There is so much going on around us and the christian church is being persecuted while we (generally speaking) are sitting up on our spiritual high horses. We are to be living by example, in love, in faith, steadfast. We should be loving our fellow man. I have reached a point I can hardly even watch the news because of all that is going on in the world. I wrote a few weeks ago about how easy it would be to hole myself up in my little corner of the world and just let the rest work itself out. But there has to be a balance. How can I show the love of Christ to the world even in the midst of the crazy stuff going on? I can start with a smile, with the opening of doors and a you go first attitude. I can embrace people for who they are and if given the opportunity teach sound doctrine, the love of Jesus. I can love and lead by example, hopefully trying to live in such a way that no one can find anything bad to say about me. I can watch my mouth and not slander or gossip (ohh I know this one is probably the hardest one for me). I can do my best to live self-controlled and upright and godly so that this present age and those around me will hopefully see Jesus in me and want what He has to give me and know that if He will help me through every day that He will help you too. 

Please pray for our nurses, our doctors, our medical professionals whether they are sitting behind a desk or driving an ambulance or mopping the floor in the hospital. Also include all first responders, firemen, policemen and anyone and everyone who are always on the front lines. 

Lost Cause?

Titus 1

When I first read this chapter I have to admit. I was having a hard time finding what good I could point out in it. Other than one little thing that I noticed that Paul told us in the greeting which is tucked away in the list of his credentials. 

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which GOD, WHO NEVER LIES, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior. (Titus 1:1-3 ESV, emphasis mine)

Those 4 words in this description really stuck out to me as one of the best parts of this chapter. “God, who never lies”. Don’t miss this my friends. In fact in Proverbs we read 6:16-19 it says that God hates liars and back in Numbers 23:19 it says “God is not a man that he should lie.” I am sure there are many other references in the Bible about lying, but these are just a couple that came to mind. Don’t miss this God never lies. There are promises in God’s word that you can take away and stake your life on because they are well His promises. He is trustworthy and He is true. 

Paul is writing this book to Titus, whom he calls a true son in the faith and he greets him with grace and peace. But the next few paragraphs, if I had been Titus, well I might have been more discouraged than encouraged at first glance. Titus has been left behind by Paul in Crete. Apparently Crete was not the happiest place on earth to be. Titus has been left with the job of establishing the churches there and setting up the elders in the churches. Paul gives him a list of qualifications for him to look at while he is setting up these elders which don’t seem to be hard for him to find. But apparently the people of Crete were not, well the most stellar people. In verse 12 it is pointed out “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” and this was pointed out by one of their own people. In other words Titus truly had his work cut out for him. These were people who were pretty much living however they wanted and Titus had to figure out how to help them get their churches off the ground and then he was being told how they were all liars and were unfit people. Can you see why I struggled?

But I kept reading and I kept asking God to reveal to me what is the take away from this chapter and then it dawned on me. Why would Paul leave Titus behind if these people were a lost cause? Why would God have directed Paul, who obviously was a true man of God by this point of his life to leave Titus behind to build churches, to teach the people of Crete if they were a lost cause? He wouldn’t. There are no lost causes as long as there is breath in someone’s lungs. Titus had a big job in front of him, but Paul found the Cretans worthy enough to appoint Titus to be there. He was giving him directives and Titus was going to have to hold firm to his teaching no doubt. 

If you have been praying for someone for a long time that in you, you wonder if they could be a lost cause, please find comfort and encouragement in this chapter of Titus. That even though the descriptions given of the Cretans paint them to be pretty corrupt people, that God directed Paul to give them Titus to teach and to love them and to point them to the faith. You may be someones Titus today. Ask God how you can teach and how you can love them. And then you have to remember it’s a process. Rarely do we get those Damascus road experiences. Most of the time the process is happening so that God can do His work in their life. When you have someone that you are praying for over a long period that maybe some might deem a lost cause you just have to keep praying, keep staying on your knees, keep dragging them in your mind to the foot of the cross and keep laying it down and then trust God to do the work. Be their Titus. 

Please pray for our President, Vice President, Governor, and our country today!