Today’s reading is Titus 3.
According to historical study, the Cretan populace was, in general, sinful and immoral in the extreme. And not just by the standards of the likes of Paul. The rest of the Roman world looked down on Crete and Cretans as vile, beastly, immoral liars. That means they were pretty bad. So we can imagine when Paul wrote to Titus about what to teach the Christians, he had a lot to say about how the Christians should wage the culture war among the sexually immoral, morally destitute, sinfully wicked Cretans. No doubt, he encouraged them to have public demonstrations, to take every opportunity to shout down the immorality, to argue constantly with everyone who disagreed with the revelation coming from the apostles, to belittle and shame the sinners. Or wait. Maybe he gave different instructions. Look again at today’s reading.
- Be submissive to rulers and authorities
- Be obedient
- Be ready for every good work
- Speak evil of no one
- Avoid quarreling
- Be gentle
- Show perfect courtesy toward all people
Wow! Why? Because we are surrounded by people who need a Savior just as we do. The only difference between us and those who still pursue sin with reckless abandon is through Jesus Christ we have the empowering strength of the Holy Spirit. Obviously, this doesn’t mean we are to neglect teaching truth and correcting opponents (see Titus 1:9; 2:1, 7-8). However, let us think about Paul’s instructions to the Cretan Christians before we act, before we interact, before we react.
Monday’s reading is John 1.
Continue reading “Living in a Modern Crete”
Today’s reading is Titus 2.
Yesterday, we learned there were insubordinate, empty talking, deceivers who were upsetting whole families teaching for shameful gain what ought not be taught. At the beginning of today’s reading, Paul turns that around on Titus. “No matter what anyone else is doing, Titus, you teach what accords with sound, healthy, faithful teaching. Those other guys are upsetting households, you settle them.” And then he talks about how everyone in a household should behave, whether male or female, whether old or young. But keep this in the context. Paul didn’t write this here so when we are preaching a series through Titus we could preach some lessons on the home. He is actually describing the battle in the vile culture of Crete. Please see, the battle isn’t won on Facebook. It isn’t won in a courthouse. It isn’t won on the floors of Congress. It is won in our households. Sure, it is great when laws get passed that support truth. But in the midst of Crete, Christians fight the good fight of faith not by conducting political battles but by living in their own households distinctly and differently, living soberly, steadfastly, lovingly, self-controlled, exemplary lives in a way that the ungodly are put to shame as they try to find some way to make an accusation against us. I think this may be a needed teaching for us today as well.
Tomorrow’s reading is Titus 3 .
Continue reading “Our Household in God’s Household”
Today’s reading is James 5.
No one gets to heaven alone. While that may be a great sentiment to promote what we often call personal evangelism, I don’t actually mean you have to bring someone along. I mean, you won’t make it to God if you are trying to get there on your own. You and I need help. We need each other. We have the best intentions to be holy, righteous, and close to God. But every one of us struggles and fails. Every one of us gets beaten by the enemy even still. One of the ways we rely on God’s strength to increasingly win these battles is by relying on one another. And so, James encourages us to develop relationships with other Christians that allow us confess with each other where the enemy is beating us. We will not overcome the enemy without those kinds of safe and saving relationships. Who are you relying on this week? If you can’t actually put the names of some brothers or sisters in the answer to that question, don’t deceive yourself into believing you’re relying on God. If you aren’t relying on His people, you aren’t relying on Him.
Tomorrow’s reading is Philemon 1.
Today’s reading is James 4.
We have a choice today. We can befriend the world or God, we can’t befriend both. And yet, that is exactly how so many try to conduct their spirituality. In fact, it amazes me the number of people who act as if the more we become like Jesus the more the world will actually like us. It just isn’t true. The more we become like Jesus, the more the world will by its very nature despise us. And the more we cozy up to the world, the more God by His very nature will separate from us. Light and darkness do not mix. May I suggest then that whichever you choose, go all in. If what you want is the blessings and pleasures of the world, quit trying to modify them with God. Go all in. Pursue the blessings of the world with reckless abandon. Of course, those blessings will fade, come to a dismal end, and be burned in the fire. But if those are the blessings you choose, get as much out of them as you can for as long as you can. However, if what you want is God’s eternal blessings, that never end, then go all in. Pursue the blessings of God with reckless abandon. Trying to live with one foot in the world and one in heaven means you’ll never enjoy either. Make your choice today. Whom will you befriend? The world or God?
Monday’s reading is James 5.
Continue reading “A Friend of God”
Today’s reading is James 3.
Oh, I needed today’s reading in terrible ways. It is so easy to criticize and curse others. Certainly, there is always the place for constructive criticism, provoking others to love and good deeds. But it is so easy to move from constructive criticism to useless belittling, condescension, and cursing. Of course, I always believe I’m justified. That person I’m cursing did something stupid, annoying, and often sinful. They voted for the wrong person. They cut me off on the road. They ignored some rule of etiquette. They disagreed with me about some Bible principle. They betrayed me. And yet, am I without any of these faults and sins? Doesn’t that sword cut both ways. I claim to bless God, but then I want to curse His creatures because I want to think in some way they don’t measure up to me? Who do I really think I am? When I produce figs, I can’t claim to be a grapevine. In like manner, when I produce cursing, I can’t claim to be a blessing. If salt water springs from my heart, I can’t claim to be a fresh water spring. Bless God today. Bless your fellow man as well even the ones who don’t seem to deserve it.
Tomorrow’s reading is James 4.
Continue reading “Grapevines Don’t Produce Figs”
Today’s reading is 1 Thessalonians 1.
“Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy.” That’s how this letter to the church in Thessalonica begins. Of Paul’s letters to congregations, two-thirds begin by listing more than one author along with Paul. I know I rarely think of any of these letters as having co-authors. I almost skip over those other fellows as if Paul included their names merely out of some kind of politeness. To be truthful, I’m not really sure why these other names are included. Did they contribute to the message or structure of the letters? Were they merely Paul’s companions at the time? I wonder why Paul included them at all. Wouldn’t that detract from his prominence? Wouldn’t that diminish his own authority? Yet, Paul is perfectly fine with demonstrating a reliance upon friends and brethren in the writing of the majority of his epistles to congregations. I so often try to go it alone, to prove I don’t need others, to demonstrate that “I’ve got this.” Paul…not so much. Think about that today. If Paul was willing to get help and rely on others even in the writing of these letters and in leading, directing, guiding congregations, how much more should we be willing to get a little help from our friends?* Who will you be leaning on today?
Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Thessalonians 2.
Continue reading “A Little Help From My Friends”
Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 14.
Let everything be done for edification, Paul says. Why? Because love builds up (see 1 Corinthians 8:1). And what is the most excellent way? Love. What is the greatest principle? Love. Thus, pursuing love doesn’t mean simply having warm emotional feelings about people. It means when I gather with the brothers and sisters, what I’m most concerned about is not proving how awesome, talented, or gifted I am. Rather, I’m most concerned about building up the people around me. Realize what this means. The rules of 1 Corinthians 14 aren’t about the rules, they are merely the practical outworking of loving my brothers and sisters. When we “go to church,” we need to make sure all we do is for edification. We need to make sure all we do is out of love.
Tomorrow’s reading is 1 Corinthians 15.
Continue reading “All for Edification”