Remind The People

A few days ago, our Bible Journal community began reading the book of Titus together. This is a short book, so we are actually finishing it up today! Paul begins the last part of his letter with the words, “Remind them” (Titus 3:1). In the NIV version, it reads, “Remind the people.” He then lists several things that he wants Titus to be sure to tell the people in the churches he is overseeing: “…to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people (Titus 3:1).

All of these admonishments are as relevant today as they were when Paul first penned these words. Each relates to living in community with others – and living in community is hard work! Paul understood that it was necessary to encourage people to pursue behaviors that lead to a healthy community and society.

There is one section of this verse that Paul returns to twice more before he ends this letter. In verse 1, Paul writes, “…be ready for every good work…” (Titus 3:1). Later, in verse 8, he writes, “…so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to good work.” (Titus 3:8). Finally, in verse 14, Paul states, “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works.” (Titus 3:14) Clearly, doing what is good is important to Paul.

In our lives today, what does this look like, to “devote ourselves to good work”? It can be any number of things. Good work can be working at the job God has called us to to the best of our ability and with integrity. It can be something practical, like blessing a friend with a meal. It can be anything, really, that reveals Christ to someone else.

And what is the benefit to our doing good work? Is it for our own salvation? No. Paul states this clearly: “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 rightly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7, emphasis mine). That verse is a long one, but the part I want us to focus on today is this: devoting ourselves to good works does not save us. Only Christ in his mercy does this. However, doing good works might draw others to us, giving us the opportunity to share the “the reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). Today, let’s consider how we can do something for the benefit of someone else, and let’s always be ready to share the reason for our hope: Jesus.

My Father, A Glimpse Into Our Heavenly Father

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 5.

Please forgive me, as this is the 2nd writing in a row about my family. My family is far from perfect to say the least like all families, but I could not help but think of my Dad when reading this passage. This chapter specifically talks about the treatment of widows in 1 Timothy 5:3 and family 1 Timothy 5:8. For much of the last 15 or so years my Dad has cared for widows. Two of his aunts, who were my Grandfather’s sisters, were widows with no children who lived alone for many years and then transitioned into an assisted living facility and then eventually a nursing home. They have now both passed. My Dad picked them up for church each Sunday, insisted they come to every holiday, and even made sure they had a corsage like all the other women at church on Mother’s Day so they didn’t feel left out.  Not only did he care for their physical needs and managed their finances, but most importantly, he cared about the way they felt about themselves. He cared about their dignity. I can’t help but think of how proud my Grandpa must have been of my Dad looking down from Heaven and seeing his son care for his sisters who had no one else.

It doesn’t stop there though. My Grandma, my Dad’s mother-in-law, was also in the nursing home with dementia at and around the same time. My Dad would stop by mid-morning each day to pick up and drop off her laundry and check in to see how she was doing. Even though she didn’t know who he was and wouldn’t have noticed if he didn’t come by or that her glasses were dirty, he would stop by just to bring a smile to her face and to clean her glasses every day. I know how great this made my Mom feel seeing the love her husband had for her own Mom. I can only hope that I can make him and my wife Shannon that proud someday. Now, my Dad cares for a widow who has no living relatives and is in need of someone to help her after her sister passed. I heard someone once say you can tell the character and quality of a person by how they treat someone who can give them nothing in return. Come to think of it..isn’t that what God did for us when he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us? He gave us something we could never repay Him for and something he didn’t need to do. He wanted to do it though. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love…” We will never be perfect and that is why we need Jesus. But, we are called to be a shadow of his image for others to see His love through our lives and actions.

I’m wrapping up my 17th unbelievable Annual Meeting in Milwaukee for my company, Northwestern Mutual, and I had the chance to hear Wheaton College legendary football coach Michael Swider speak for the second time in my life. If you ever have a chance to hear him..go! He has me crying and wanting to run through a brick wall for God, my family, and those I lead every time I hear him. He said, “Your reputation is what others think about you. Your character is what God and the angels know.” 1 Timothy 5:25 says, “So also good works are conspicuous and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.” Coach Swider said we all will have a meeting with God someday. We just don’t know when it is. He asked, “What if your meeting with God was tomorrow?” And it could be! What would He say to you? He knows your character and true heart. Although we only need to ask for forgiveness and believe in Him for his grace and good works cannot earn his grace and eternal life, I sure hope and pray that if my meeting is with God  is tomorrow he will say to me, “Well done my good and faithful servant!” I know He will say that to my Dad. What do you think he will he say to you?


5 Essentials for Christian Growth

Have you ever seen a W.W.J.D. bracelet?  If you’re wondering, it stands for ‘what would Jesus do?’  When I was growing up my friends and I all wore them.  We had them in all different colors.  We wore them inside out and upside down.  We were all about our W.W.J.D. bracelets.  

I always thought W.W.J.D.  was a great reminder to do the right thing.  Growing up there are so many choices that we are faced with.  Finding the right answer was not always easy but this bracelet seemed to at least start us looking in the right direction.

As a Christian grows up they hope to mature in Christ.  They hope to have the right answers and make the right choices more than they did when they were young.  This is what happens when a Christian matures.  Scripture is clear that Christ followers will grow (2Peter 3:18, 1Peter 2:2, 1Timothy 4:15, Ephesians 4:15, 1Corinthians 13:11, Colossians 2:6-7, 2Corinthians 3:18) From our reading today, Philippians 1:9-11 reveals to us the 5 essentials for Christian growth. That is, the 5 ways the Spirit works in us as we follow Christ.

  1. Love

We love because He first loved us. (1John 4:19)  It is no surprise that the first essential to Christian growth is love.  After all, love is the greatest attribute of a follower of Christ. (John 13:35)  In a world that tosses around this word seeking to destroy its meaning, it is always a good idea to return to the truth to test our definition of this defining characteristic of our faith in Jesus.

Agape is the word here translated as love. It is a self-sacrificing love.  Later in Philippians 2:1-8, Paul gives one of the fullest descriptions of agape love in the Bible. One statement from this scripture stood out to me, “…but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  What would our lives look like if everyone’s interest were always placed above our own?

Love is not blind.  Quite the opposite love is very perceptive, very discerning.  True love produces obedience that requires knowledge of the truth.  (John 14:15, John 14:21, John 14:23, John 15:10, 1John 3:24)  Here is a list of 1236 commands from the New Testament.

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
Philippians 1:9

  1. Excellence

Verse 10a begins, ‘that ye’ or ‘so that’ in the ESV, indicating that the first point is foundational to the second.  The word here ‘approve’ is ‘dokimazo’, meaning to allow, examine, prove, and discern.  The love of God, with its foundation in the Word (commands), not only helps us discern right from wrong but helps us discern what is best from what is only good.  God’s will is not good, it is perfect. (Romans 12:2)  Love and the Word help us find what is excellent.

When John Wesley went away to Oxford his mother wrote the following in a letter to him: “Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the delight for spiritual things, whatever increases the authority of your body over your mind, that thing is sin.”

That ye may approve things that are excellent;
Philippians 1:10a

  1. Integrity

Verse 10b also begins with ‘that ye’ or ‘in order to be’ in the ESV, again making clear the continued progression of the text.  The word ‘sincere’ is ‘eilikrines’ and carries with it ideas of cohesiveness, oneness and unity.  What would our lives look like if everything touched everything else and ‘gelled’ as it were with no offences?  Does Christ touch every part of your life?  Is there any part of your life that you are keeping for you?  

that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.
Philippians 1:10b

  1. Good works

Verse 11a begins with ‘being’ or ‘having been filled’ in the ESV, a perfect passive participle in the Greek indicating something that happened in the past and is continuing here and now.  It is essential that we understand the progression of this Scripture.  The fruit’s appeal is instant gratification but trying to skip ahead or jump right to the fruit is a lie.  The fruit itself is not something to strive for in a direct sense.  The fruit is the byproduct of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)  Forced fruit without the leaven of love is legalism.  

Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ
Philippians 1:11a

  1. Glory of God

Verse 11b begins with ‘unto’ or ‘to’ in the ESV, this is the purpose clause, it answers the question ‘why?’.  The most important essential is the glory of God.  Indeed it is the reason for the others.  

For a time I thought of reversing this list so that it would begin with God’s glory and end with love.  Though I decided against it, the reason was that it all actually starts here, with the end in mind.  

Our heart attitude is what sets all growth in motion, through the grace of Christ and the power of the Spirit.  Glory to God.  Glory to God is on the believer’s heart.  If God’s glory is our focus the Spirit will be at work in us, helping love abound in us, producing in us spiritual excellence, personal integrity, and genuine good works all to God’s glory.

As I made my way through this study I realised that there was one simple answer to that question ‘What would Jesus do?’ Jesus brings glory to the Father.

unto the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:11b

God, may our eyes be single for You. Amen.


Study sources:

What We Cannot Do For Ourselves…

Today’s reading is from Romans 3.

The word grace is defined by as “the freely and unmerited favor and love of God.” I’ve also heard it put that God’s grace means he will love us no matter what. also defines a gift as “something given voluntarily without payment in return.” We learn in Romans 3:24 that we “are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” Google defines redemption as “clearing a debt.” Romans 3:23 tells us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:20 says, “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.”

Typically a writer should wait until the end to put all the pieces together in a summary, but this is big enough that I feel compelled to do it now. Put plainly, no one is without sin, and no one receives the favor, love, and forgiveness of God by doing good works. We receive God’s love and have all our sins erased though confession of sin and faith in the one who first loved us when we didn’t deserve it, his son Jesus Christ. That’s all we have to do to get right with God? Yep…that’s it. Praise God!

In his Book If, Mark Batterson puts into perspective God’s forgiveness by reminding readers of the story in Matthew 18 when Jesus equivalates God’s forgiveness to a master who forgave his servant 10,000 talents.  One talent was 180 months or 15 years of wages. Therefore, a debt of 10,000 talents was 150,000 years or 2,332 lifetimes of wages of debt forgiven! This puts things into perspective of how no number of good works during our lifetime could make us righteous before God. Thinking of what God has done for us which he did not have to do and the fact that this is something we could not do for ourselves is enough to move me to tears often.

Let’s stick to the definition theme here. Merriam-Webster’s website defines righteous as “free from guilt or sin.” Mark also discusses in If that our sins are transferred into Christ’s account and paid in full when we confess our sins through Jesus’ death on the cross, but that’s only half of it. A second transfer occurs that we often forget. Jesus Christ’s righteousness is then deposited into our account with God calling it even! Not only does God not see our sin, he sees the righteousness of his son Jesus who was without sin in us. This is told to us in 2 Corinthians 5:21. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we may BECOME the righteousness of God.”

How does all this change how we should live today knowing these things?

  1. We don’t do good works and live how God wants us to live to earn God’s grace and love. We do good works in response to God’s love and grace.
  2. We do not boast or brag of anything we do (Romans 3:27). We can only boast of his grace and tell others of our faith in him.
  3. Since no one receives the righteousness of God based on works, family lineage, race, financials status, or social status, but only through faith in Jesus, we view ourselves as better than no one else. We see everyone as a child of God who is loved by God the same as us. We realize that everyone has a desperate need to come to faith in, and have a relationship with, Jesus Christ.
  4. We live different. We live life fearlessly because we have the righteousness of Jesus in God’s eyes through faith in him. We know he’s on our side and wants the best for us no matter what. Subconscious doubts about God’s love can culminate is many fears daily, but when know of God’s abundant love and are absolutely sure of it, we can live life without worries or anxieties about today or the future.

Please say this prayer with me today..

Dear God,

                I’m sorry for my many sins. I thank you for your gift of grace through faith in your son Jesus and his death on the cross. I thank you that your mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23) and that you see me as righteous like Jesus only through confession and belief in him. Because of what Jesus did, help me to do good so that everyone can know you and see your love through me. Help me to not draw attention to these works, except for so that everyone will know the love you showed on the cross. Help me to remember each day that I can take risks and live a fearless life to be all you have called me to be because you have made me righteous like Jesus through faith in Him. Amen.

Goat? Yes please.

The first person I thought of when reading the following two verses was our eleven-year-old son. If you know the young man in this post’s featured image, you know one of his many fine qualities is that he is a rule-follower, doesn’t speak falsely of anyone, and is gentle and courteous. Adults gravitate toward Peyton; in part I believe because he’s polite and can come off as very mature. He enjoys engaging with adults and asking good questions, loves trying food that would horrify most kids, and shows genuine interest in what people have to say.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:1-2)

Several of these attributes played out the other night at our favorite restaurant when we noticed the famous chef/owner Stephanie Izard was there running the kitchen. It was Peyton’s first time at this restaurant, and he was delighted to learn that he could just walk right up and meet his newest hero. It was a brief chat and a great photo opportunity, but what made it excellent was observing the dialogue and demeanor of both individuals. Peyton conveyed how much he loved the goat belly and escargot ravioli, which put a big smile on the chef, as well as myself.

I’ve taken the time to share this today because I thought about the reasons why we’re taught to live out the attributes in Titus 3:1-2. Titus 3:8 points to the crux of the reasons: so we can be role models for other believers and because these things are excellent and profitable. We’ve got a saying in our home “good things happen with good behavior”, and it is true. When we’re genuinely courteous, we are much more fun to be around. I see these as simple truths that regardless of someone’s belief in God, we can observe a real-life situation, something excellent, we are moved by it, and we want more of it.

The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. (Titus 3:8)

In the big picture here this points to us seeking to live like Christ, the one who showed the ultimate act of kindness and love toward us through his perfect sacrifice. What could be more excellent and profitable than that?

2 Kings 17; Titus 3; Hosea 10; Psalms 129–131