Friday, October 2, 2015

Teaching what is appropriate to sound doctrine.....

The inspired writer Paul addressed his comrade in the faith, Titus, with specific instructions to Christians of various ages, and living in various situations.  Let's look at Titus 2 and see how the instructions work.
 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.  Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.  The first standard in the teachings for Titus is directed to the olden men. The things Paul mentions are all attributes which are priority to the older men. 

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.  These pertain to the older women, but even expand in areas where the older women can share and teach the younger women. It is no mistake the attribute of love is mentioned to both men and women.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.  In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.  Now the young men receive their encouragement. Titus is to lead the way,  to be a good example for the younger men, and to lead with integrity. 

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them,  and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. Yes, even slaves had standards by which they were to conduct themselves. It is especially noted that slaves were to please their masters and be subject to them.

 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,  while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  This is the meat of Paul's message to Titus. After covering the various age groups, both men and women, and even slaves, Paul introduces us to the very strong truth, "God's grace which offers salvation has appeared to all people."  Regardless of who we are or how much we know, we should recognize the priority standards which are given to us.  The blessings from God are graciously given to us for our good.  All people should learn to say "no" to ungodliness and worldly passions.  We all need self-control. Everyone should try to be upright and godly in their living.  Like Paul says, we are eagerly waiting for the blessed hope, the return of Jesus.

When you read all the bold type in today's article, you will have read the entire chapter of Titus 2.  It was important that Paul write these things to Titus, and to us, to make everyone aware of their conduct, their goals of righteous living, and their readiness for the return of Jesus. The chapter ends with Paul saying, "These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you."  We should teach these things and live by them, too.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Blessed are the chosen

Psalm 65:1-4
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion;  to you our vows will be fulfilled.
O you who hear prayer,
to you all men will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!
 We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.
Are you happy as a Christian?  Do the joys and the happiness of day to day living show that you are a happy person that belongs to God?  Obviously David was a happy man when he wrote the beginning of the psalm at the top of the page. 

There is a story I tell often, of a time when my in-laws were coming to see us, just after we moved to a new town.  They were arriving on Sunday morning so we decided we would all meet at church. My directions were apparently not easy to follow and they were lost in a strange town, not being able to find the church building.  While stopped at a traffic light, my mother-in-law jokingly commented that the man in the car next to them had a huge frown on his face so maybe they should follow him. Sure enough, a couple of blocks down the street, he turned into the church parking lot.

I have often thought that all of us should reflect a more joyous appearance when we enter the meeting place of God's people. However, I believe all of us have sent a message to others that we are somewhat burdened with the worship experience. And to that I will add, our very lives become an example and testimony to those who see or meet us, that we are not joyous to assemble in the presence of God. 

The part of the psalm above is just the beginning of more positive things David has to say about God's followers and their lives of happiness. Read the entire psalm and see the things David has to be happy about.

How could he express such happiness?  After all, David had committed adultery and murder. Grievous sins were in his life.  But God is merciful and forgiving, and David sought the restoration of his relationship with the Father.  The same can happen for you and me. When we seek God we find a loving father who cares and desires the things that are best for us. In spite of our sinful ways, God still loves us and wants us to love him, and learn of his forgiveness.

David's life was a demonstration of the goodness and faithfulness of God. David didn't have to live behind a frown anymore. Neither do we. Yes, difficulties and disappointments come our way, but we learn to leave our burdens at the foot of the cross, where we find the restoration which brings true joy. 


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My Heart is Set

Psalm 119:105-112
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
    and a light for my path.
106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it,
    that I will follow your righteous laws.
107 I have suffered much;
    preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth,
    and teach me your laws.
109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands,
    I will not forget your law.
110 The wicked have set a snare for me,
    but I have not strayed from your precepts.
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
    they are the joy of my heart.
112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees
    to the very end.

Reading the entire Psalm 119 is a lengthy read, but filled with word pictures of the psalmist's relationship to God. I've selected this section in order for us to see how close we should be to God and his ways.  As you read and meditate on the above verses, see if these are declarations you have made in your walk with God. Some are easy for us to say and believe, others may be more difficult.

Can we all say to God, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path?"  Of course we can. That one is easy to say and it sounds so biblical for us to have such a respect for the word of the Lord. 

The next verse considers the taking of an oath and confirming it. It is actually a promise to God of the determination and pledge that we are going to make God's way our way.  That one is easy to say, but sometimes a difficult promise to keep. 

I like verse 108, "Accept, O Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws."  We all want God to accept our praise and our worship, but sometimes we are more concerned about how well it pleases us. 

Check over all these statements of declaration as we examine ourselves to see how closely we are believing and declaring them as truth for us.  Look again at the words of the psalmist, "My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end."


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Forgiving Others

Matthew 6:14-15
"14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Sound familiar?  It should.  Those two verses come from the Sermon on the Mount and are the words of Jesus immediately after the Lord's Prayer.  And remember, it is in the Lord's Prayer, where Jesus said, "This is how you should pray,"  and it includes the part where we are taught to pray for God's forgiveness in the same way we forgive one another.

What prohibits us from having this type of forgiveness toward others when we pray?  We who are so ready for God to forgive us, so ready to experience the freedom of his forgiveness, cannot come to grips with God's insistence for us to be forgiving toward others.  God says we either forgive those who sin against us, or he will not forgive our sins.

The remedy for this dilemma lies in the depth of our understanding of the love of God.  God must really love us because he keeps on forgiving us.  That should lead us into another truth.  The reason we have difficulty in forgiving those who sin against us is because we have not learned to love them.

We love our families, some of our neighbors, we love sports, we love cars, we love golf, we love fishing, we love God.  When it comes to someone sinning against us, we want justice.  They have acted in a way that does not deserve forgiveness.  They may try to make things right, but we have the tendency to hold their sin over their heads from now on. 

If you remember nothing else today, remember God forgives you, and in every sin you commit, you do not deserve his forgiveness.  He forgives you because he loves you.  You can only experience God's forgiveness when you are forgiving toward those who wrong you.

Draw close to God as you need and seek his forgiveness, but draw closer to each other as you are forgiving toward them. 


Friday, September 25, 2015

His face is hidden....

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
    nor his ear too dull to hear.
But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
    so that he will not hear. 
Isaiah 59:1-2

There probably aren't any words in scripture which contain more sadness than these. Isaiah is among those prophets who gave the messages of doom and gloom because of the unfaithfulness of Israel. In these opening verses of Isaiah 59, several facts are established. 1. God has not lost his power to save, nor has he closed his ears to the prayers of his people. 2. People are separated from God because of sin. 3.  Sin hides his face from us so that he will not hear. 

If you want to really get depressed, keep reading about the situation of Israel.  Not only were they content in their sins, it seems as if there was no concern on the part of anyone that their present condition was leading to disaster. 

We are looking at intercessory prayer, the prayers we pray on behalf of others. Would you pray for a people like these?  When you pray, do you specifically mention those whose lives are separated from God?  For the people in Isaiah 59, it was the repetition of lifestyle they had grown accustomed to, the lifestyle of sin, confession, and redemption. Over and over again.

I mentioned these were among the saddest verses in scripture, but there is one observation that tops all the others when it comes to sadness. Verses 15-16, "Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene."

Did you catch that? No doubt God was displeased because of the absence of truth. There is no question that God was upset because there was no justice. The Bible says God was appalled that no one was interceding.
In an age where we are quick to judge others, speedy to spread the news of failure, and insistent on not making room for a second chance, I am wondering if God is asking his people, "Why haven't you prayed for them?  Why haven't they been the primary focus of your intercessory prayers?"

That gives us a new perspective on the importance of praying for each other. Surely there is a list of people you know who would appreciate you mentioning them to God when you pray. When the people of God talk to him on behalf of others, we are unleashing an unlimited source of power; the power to overcome, the power to forgive, and yes, the power to love as God loves us. 


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Help from the Lord...

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore. 
Psalm 121:1-8

I have some good news for you.  The government of your country is not your source.  The politicians in Washington, regardless of the party label they carry, are not the answer to our problems.  The bills and laws which are submitted to congress for approval or rejection, will never save you. 

I do not like to see all the turmoil our country is experiencing, and I certainly do not have all the answers, but I do know our God will never shut down his grace, his mercy, nor his love for us.  That is why the psalmist would write words which encourage us to our place our confidence and dependence on God, especially in times of trouble. 

Today I will pray, like every day, with full assurance God will hear and answer.
Today I will trust, like every day, in his direction for my life.
Today I will help, like every day, those who are hungry or hurting.
Today I will look, like every day, for opportunities to share my faith.
Today I will share, like every day, a kind word, a good deed, or a caring concern for someone who needs me.
Today I will be aware, like every day, of the presence of the Holy Spirit living in me, to lead, and direct me in right paths.
Today I will be thankful, like every day, to my Lord, Jesus, for giving his life to pay for my sins.

Things may be getting very serious for our country and its future. I will pray for America and her leaders to turn and seek the face of God as they lead us through these times.  

But, at all times, I yearn for all to know, " My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth."  


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

God Speaks.....Do We Listen?

Isaiah 51:1-3
“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
 look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many.
 The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing."

Little Johnny informed his Bible class teacher that he had finally figured out the Old Testament.  She wanted to hear more, especially since there was a lot of the Old Testament their class hadn't studied.  Johnny said, "Well, after the story of creation, and the story of the flood, and the story of the Ten Commandments, the Old Testament is just a book about people disobeying God, and God sending someone to tell them they need to stop that.  It happens over and over and over."

Johnny may be onto something there. People who are blessed by God and become the chosen of God, do seem to have difficulty trusting God and maintaining their allegiance to Him. The Bible reference above is evidence of Johnny's analysis. It comes at a time when the prophet Isaiah has been commissioned by God to bring Israel back to Him.  Notice God speaking through Isaiah as chapter 51 begins, "Listen to me."  In this case, God was calling on them to remember their heritage, remember from whence you came.  That is a great step we take in our life's return to God also.  The memory in the mind of man is a strong force. We may hear it called conscience but it can simply be a time of remembering our roots and the spiritual formation from days gone by. 

God spoke again through Isaiah just a few verses later, and repeated the urgency by saying, "Listen to me."  In this instance God reminded Israel that His law would be proclaimed, and His justice would become a light to the people.  He wanted them to know that through His mercy and justice, their salvation was coming soon. 

Then God spoke again in the same chapter of Isaiah.  You guessed it, he started with "Listen to me," and this time he addresses those people who know right from wrong and have a love in their hearts for God's law. He further assures them His righteousness will endure forever and His salvation will spread from generation to generation. 

We, too, find ourselves on that roller-coaster of disobedience, and seeking forgiveness. We experience the ups and downs in our relationship with God. His message to us is the same as the one he gave through Isaiah,  "Listen to me."  Remembering our heritage, remembering God's decrees, and remembering His righteousness is forever, brings us to our knees in our search for Him.