Doing What Is Good

Scripture Reading: Titus 3:1-7: Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate and to show true humility toward all men. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (NIV)

This letter from the Apostle Paul, is addressed to Titus, Paul’s ministry partner. Paul and Titus visited the Mediterranean island of Crete, and they introduced Christianity to the inhabitants of the island. Paul then left Titus behind to organize those new converts. In our scripture reading for today, Paul is instructing Titus on the believers obligations as citizens of this world and how they are to conduct themselves in a godly way. The people living on the island of Crete were apparently dishonest, lazy, and self-absorbed.

In chapter one of the letter to Titus, Paul gives instructions to Titus on the qualities that the church leaders must possess. “Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1: 7-9).

Several of these qualities stand out for me, as I read over this scripture passage. Leaders must be self-controlled and disciplined, hospitable, and loving that which is good. A good leader must also learn how to control his or her temper and should attempt to lead the church into carrying out God’s work by creating unity and trusting cooperation among the body of Christ. Someone that leads must be respected and must ultimately follow God’s teachings and direction as they move others  towards a closer relationship with Christ.

It is painful to encounter people that call themselves “Christians” but continue to live in ways that does not bring glory to God. We all know people who are quick-tempered and are filled with hate and anger. They don’t even attempt to “build up” other believers, they are only happy when they can “tear” other Christians down. They live in opposition to God’s desire for our lives, they only want their way and they want everything to be on their own terms. Cooperation and encouragement are words that do not exist in their vocabulary.

Paul reminds us in his letter to Titus that, as followers of Christ, we have been changed into a new way of life. God has poured out His love and His kindness to us and we should be eager to shower other people with our own love and kindness. Christ died for our sins and he saved us, not by any good works on our own part, but simply because God loves us. As believers we have been forgiven and we have been granted the incomprehensible gift of eternal life in heaven. God granted us mercy and He expects us to be merciful to others.

If you have experienced this awesome love from God and have accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you should be willing to be merciful, patient, and loving towards others.  As followers of Christ, we are commanded to conduct ourselves in this manner to all people, not just to fellow Christians. God loves everyone and I believe that He expects us to do the same.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (NKJV)

 

 

 

 

 

When God is Silent

I am posting again a devotional from June 2011 entitled, “When God is Silent.” Many people today are struggling with this perceived silence in their lives as they continue to seek answers or direction from God.

2 Peter 3:8-9:  “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” This passage serves to remind me that God does not view time as we humans do. God waits patiently while we as humans, are impatient. I believe that God is always at work in the background of our lives, to ready us for what lies ahead. Continue to have faith, don’t give up, believe that God loves you and cares for you and is currently at work in your life.

Psalm 102: 1-7: Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.

We live in a world where there is constant noise and very little silence. Noise is something that we are accustomed to and when there is silence, we become uncomfortable. When the pastor asks the congregation to pray in silence, before the pastoral prayer, I take notice of people moving around uneasily. Even in the middle of a church service, we are anxious when it comes to silence.

Silence is especially painful when it is the silence of God in our lives. And it seems that when we are going through a painfully long period of silence from God, there are many people that want to tell us about how God has “spoken” to them. That tends to trouble me, because I begin to wonder why God is speaking to them and not to me. The silence that I am feeling becomes agonizing and then uncertainties begin to settle in my mind, and I pray really hard for some kind of answer, and it seems that all I get from God is silence.

When God is silent we can simply become upset with God, we become confused, we start to doubt. The truth is that we just don’t know what to do with God’s silence. There is some sort of anguish in my life, I am suffering and in pain like the psalmist. And it seems that I have been praying to God for a very long time, to help me with my problems, and all that I am met with, is silence from God. Then I begin to question if God has given up on me or has stopped listening to me and my prayers.

The Old Testament story of Job, is a reminder of crying out to God for answers and receiving silence. Job cried out to God for the first thirty seven chapters of the book of Job and God finally answered him in chapter 38. God said, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” (Job 38:4-5). That is God’s way of reminding us that God continues to be in charge of this universe.

The psalmist, in our scripture reading today, seems to be asking, “God, are you even listening to these prayers of mine that I am pouring out to you?” I’m hurting Lord, I’m in deep anguish God, please hear my prayers. The psalmist is reminding us that it’s allright to complain to God. We don’t have to hide our feelings from God because He knows what they are already.

It could be that God is not silent after all; it’s possible that we are not tuned into hearing God. We are surrounded by background noise and countless distractions. God is trying to communicate with us, but we can’t hear God because we have blocked him out. Our minds are tuned into the internet or the television instead of reading our Bible daily or a few moments of quiet prayer with God. It is in those moments that we can hear that still, small voice of our creator God. And it is in those moments that we can receive answers to our worries or concerns.

1 Kings 19:11-12: The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. This is why it is crucial to have a daily quiet time with God, so that through reading the Bible, or through prayer, God can speak to your heart through the Holy Spirit, in that still, small voice. Don’t allow yourself to be too busy that you don’t take the time to listen.

There is a story that you may have heard about a man who once lost his valuable watch in an ice house. All of his fellow workers diligently searched the ice house looking for the watch. They combed every inch of it, but they couldn’t find it. A little boy, hearing about their search, slipped into the ice house and quickly emerged with the watch. All of the men were amazed and they said, “How did you find it?” And he said, ” Well I simply went to the ice house, closed the door, laid down quietly on the floor, and then I began to listen. After a while, I could hear the tick, tick, tick of the watch.” Are you training yourself to listen for God or have you let the noise of this world block out what God is trying to communicate to you.

What happens when prayers seem to go unanswered or not answered in the way that we wanted them to be? For me, it’s continuing to have faith and trust in God and His plan for my life. I have struggled lately with my calling and why things have not worked out in the time frame that I have wanted them to. I feel that I have been faithful to God and sometimes I just can’t understand why opportunities have passed me by and doors have been closed on me. Someone told me several weeks ago that God closes one door in order to open up another one. I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of all those doors slamming shut in my face.

However, I continue to have faith and hope, and I trust in God’s promises. I pray that you will continue to have faith and seek out some quality, quiet time with God. I believe, that it is in those quiet moments, that we have the opportunity to experience God revealing himself to us and making clear His will for our lives. We must train ourselves to be quiet, and to listen, and then respond, to our creator God.

The Faith of Rahab

The Old Testament Book of Joshua gives us the story of the prostitute Rahab, who lived in the city of Jericho. God had given this pagan city over to the Israelites, and after winning the Battle of Jericho, the children of Israel would finally begin to live in the Promised Land. God had commanded the Israelites to burn the entire city and everything in it. Rahab’s life, and that of her family, was spared because of the great faith of this woman. At first glance, this seems an unlikely ending for this woman, but God has always used people of faith to help carry out His purposes.

Scripture does not tell us how Rahab came to be a prostitute, it could have been the only way that she could have provided for herself and her family. The Bible does not seem to judge her for this questionable career choice, instead it reminds us several times that it was her faith in Israel’s God, that made her remarkable.

If you had met Rahab before her encounter with the two men sent to “spy”  out the land of Jericho, you probably would have written her off as someone that would never know God. In her own pagan society, her social status was very low and she was not regarded as someone of any importance. It was her faith in a God that she had only heard stories about that completely changed her life. Maybe Rahab was so tired of the life she was living, she knew that trusting in a God who had performed many miraculous signs was the only way out of this kind of lifestyle.

The two “spies” managed to get into the walled fortress of Jericho and they came upon Rahab’s house, which was part of the city wall. Her house provided an excellent location for the two men to assess this city’s defense system. Scripture tells us that the presence of the spies was detected almost as soon as they had entered Rahab’s house. Rahab was faced with a choice, turn the foreign spies in and possibly receive a monetary reward, or “lie” and hide the spies, and hopefully spare the lives of herself and her family. If the king of Jericho found out that she was lying to him, Rahab and her family would probably not survive anyway.

Rahab lied to the king’s messengers and sent them off in a different direction. She then gave instructions to the two spies on how to evade the king’s men and return to the Israelite camp on the other side of the Jordan River. The men made an oath with Rahab and told her to tie a scarlet cord in the window of her home, which would be a signal to the Israelites to not harm anyone in that house. Rahab saved herself and her family from destruction and death, as the entire city of Jericho was burned and everyone else was put to death.

Many biblical commentators don’t know what to do with Rahab’s “lie.” The Bible does not either condone or condemn her lie, rather it recognizes or points to the great faith of Rahab. Rahab, the prostitute, is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 1, in the genealogy of Jesus (Rahab was the mother of Boaz, the great-grandfather of King David.) She is also listed among the “heroes of faith”, in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 11:31: By faith, the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. The book of James (2:25) also recognizes the faith of this woman: In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?”

Like all of us, Rahab did not lead a perfect life, she had her many faults. She is pointed out however, as someone who had faith and who also acted upon that faith. Her faith is what scripture points to and holds up to us as an example for each of us today. Her story reminds us not to give up on people or to “judge” them for what we perceive them to be. God can redeem and use anyone who is willing to follow Him in faith.

The “heroes of faith” in the book of Hebrews lists Rahab among those who faithfully answered God’s call. In the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, we find the names of those who are listed as people of great faith. Hebrews 11:1-2 reminds us that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.”

I encourage you to read the story of Rahab from the Old Testament Book of Joshua, chapter 2.

 

Earthly Possessions or Treasures in Heaven

In the Gospel of Luke, we are told about a man who was part of the crowd that was listening to the teachings of Jesus. This unnamed man seems to just blurt out an unusual request to Jesus. He said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me” (Luke 12:13). Rabbis would normally settle these type of matters but this man took his selfish request directly to Jesus. It appears that this man had not been paying close attention to what Jesus was teaching.

Luke 12:14-15: Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

This is a difficult teaching for many people to follow today. Our society tends to define us by how much money we earn, the type of house that we live in, the status of the vehicles that we drive, or the kind of clothes we wear. But Jesus is telling His followers not to judge a person’s life based on the abundance of the possessions that he or she has.

Jesus then tells a parable of a rich man who produced an abundant crop. The man was greatly concerned with where he would store this excess of crops. So he decided to tear down his barns and build bigger barns where he could store all of his grain and goods. The man was content because he had stored up plenty of good things for many years. This rich man decides to take life easy; “to eat, drink and be merry.” This rich man was more worried about protecting his wealth and acquiring more assets than living a life that accomplished things of eternal value.

But God tells the man, that what he has done is foolish, because “this very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:16-20).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us about storing up treasures in heaven. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Are you spending your time on earth only focusing on your possessions and trying to accumulate more stuff? Or, are you focused on what lies ahead, in eternity? God wants us to spend our time on earth helping those who are less fortunate and using our time and our resources to bring God’s kingdom into the lives of those who do not yet know Christ. By sharing the “Good News” and being the hands and feet of Christ in this world, you are ensuring that you will spend eternity in the presence of God in heaven.

 

 

 

 

Words That Hurt

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 12:18: Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

The words that are spoken to us by our family, friends, co-workers, or complete strangers can either build us up or they can tear us down. Words are powerful and they can have a lasting effect that can be positive or negative. Most of us prefer to be around people that have encouraging words to say to us, words that make us feel loved and appreciated. However, we all come across people who just don’t have a kind word to say and we must learn how to respond in a wise manner.

All of us have had to respond to someone who has said harsh words to us. We don’t always respond in the best way because we get mad, upset, offended and we want to strike back. I have known people that actually enjoy arguing and getting into conflicts. They are happiest when they have a feud going.Proverbs 15:1 says:  A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

I heard a mother of two young children recently get very upset in a store over the price of an item. The mother was getting visibly upset at the poor clerk who obviously had no control over the price of the item. The mother started using language that you would not expect a mother to use. Then she turned to her children and told them to repeat the same offensive, vulgar phrase to the young cashier. The kids obeyed their mother and they stormed out the door, with the mother still yelling obscenities.

Words hurt, and sometimes they hurt badly. This poor cashier did nothing to deserve this onslaught of obscenities, and to her credit, she remained polite and as calm as possible. I tried to reassure the cashier that this woman probably came into the store mad, and that unfortunately, the cashier was the first one that she came into contact with.  I’m not sure that really helped.

Paul, in Ephesians 4:29 writes, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”As Christians, we should not only stop using offensive language, but we must use words that will build each other up.

James 1:19-20 reminds us, Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

Weakened But Not Defeated

Over the past few weeks, I have struggled with a certain feeling of weakness. This feeling of weakness on my part, was my own inability to “fix” those problems or concerns that are a part of daily life. It seemed that the more I tried to address these problems, that a completely new set of issues arose, and I found myself struggling with things that I had absolutely no control over.

The Apostle Paul gives us a reminder of a person who often suffered and endured many hardships for his faithful preaching of the Gospel. Paul, in 2 Corinthians, tells us that in order to keep him from becoming conceited that he was given a thorn in his flesh that served to torment him. Paul pleaded with God to remove this “thorn” but was told by the Risen Christ, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

I’m certain that it would have been easy for a man like Paul to become conceited or to feel that he was superior to any other human being because he had been given a glimpse of heaven, of paradise. During the time that he had this vision of heaven, he heard “inexpressible things,” things that he was not permitted to tell. Paul at first pleaded with God to take away from him this thorn that was nagging at him and possibly preventing him from fully carrying out his ministry.But Paul came to realize that it was through his many weaknesses that the power of Christ was made perfect. As Paul writes, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”(2 Corinthians 12:10).

I know many people who are facing difficulties and hardships each and every day. There are those who are struggling with health issues that seem to overwhelm them. I know people who are unhappy with their jobs and there are many who would simply be thankful to even have a job. Many of us are dealing with family issues and problems that seem to almost drain us of every ounce of energy from our bodies. And there are a lot of people who wonder if God seems to notice or even cares about the many difficulties that they are facing in their lives.

Paul reminds us that God does care and that many times He is working in the background of our lives, before we even notice it. Paul encourages us as believers, to take our concerns and our worries to God in prayer, to turn those concerns over to God and to worry no more. As humans, we cannot even being to comprehend God’s love and His care for those who belong to Him. Paul is expressing this thought in his letter to the Ephesians: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”(Ephesians 3:17-19)

As followers of Christ we must acknowledge that we are weak human beings. However, by placing our faith and trust in Christ we are learning to develop more trust and faith. We then come to realize that no matter what our circumstances are that we must be content and have faith that God is there with us in the midst of our troubles. It is in our weaknesses and failings that the power of Christ is made perfect.

Paul reminds us that “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

 

 

 

Great is Thy Faithfulness

Scripture Reading: Lamentations 3:19-23
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

The author of the book of Lamentations is uncertain, although many ancient Jewish and early Christian traditions ascribe it to Jeremiah. Jeremiah has been called the “weeping prophet” because he so often would express the anguish of his spirit. Jeremiah was a prophet of doom and not surprisingly he only attracted a few close followers. God commanded Jeremiah to not marry and raise children because the Lord was going to soon send a divine judgment upon Judah that would sweep away the next generation.

Lamentations is not the only OT book that contains individual or community laments. (A large number of the Psalms are lament poems, and every prophetic book except Haggai includes one or more examples of the lament genre.) Lamentations is the only book however, that consists solely of laments.

The book of Lamentations mournfully expresses the people’s overwhelming sense of loss that accompanied the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as well as the exile of Judah’s inhabitants from the land that God had covenanted to give Israel as a permanent national homeland.

In 1923, Thomas Chisolm wrote one of the greatest modern hymns about the faithfulness of God from this text in Lamentations. In the first stanza he writes about the character of God and how it does not change. God is compassionate and that compassion will last into eternity. In stanza two he writes about God’s faithfulness in maintaining the order of the universe. In stanza three he writes of God’s faithfulness in forgiving our sins and providing strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Each stanza leads to the great culminating chorus that declares the victorious words of Jeremiah, “Great is Thy faithfulness.”

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin And a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, With ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Prayer: Our heavenly Father, as your followers we know Lord that you love us. We believe that you watch over our lives and that you guard us each and every day. Help us to remember that your love is unfailing and your compassion is everlasting. Give us the strength and the hope to arise every morning remembering how great your faithfulness is to each one of us. In spite of what the previous day has brought into our lives, we awake with a new hope, a hope for a better and brighter day. And we have the promise that you are there Lord and that your compassion upon us will never fail. Amen.

Sources used:
NIV Study Bible Zondervan
Dailyencouragement.net