There is a truth that shows people how to live Godly lives.
This letter is from Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ. I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. (Titus 1:1 NLT)
This is what I know:
– People who want to live a Godly life want to know this truth.
– People who want to live life their own way definitely don’t want to know this truth.
– if you try and make those who don’t want to live by this truth, live by this truth, you will alienate even some who are open to the truth.
– find people who are open, or at a minimum curious, and teach them about this truth. Dont waste your time, energy or breath on those who are opposed to the truth.
– Ask God to bring people into your life who are open to this truth.
– lastly, if you claim to believe in this truth, and then don’t live according to it, you are worse than those who are opposed to it.
There is an old chorus I used to sing as a boy:
My soul followeth hard after Thee
Early in the morning will
I rise up and seek Thee
And because Thou hast been my help
Under the shadow of Thy wings
I will rejoice, rejoice
Has God ever asked you to do something that was really hard for you to do? Can I confess that getting up at the crack of dawn is a problem for me? Truly. I like to stay up late (I get some of my best work done from 9 to midnight). But God is asking me to get up early (at dawn) and seek His face. It requires a lifestyle change and for some old habits to be crucified.
So, I would like to say that I have been doing it faithfully. But God and I are still arm wrestling over this one. I have a suspicion He is going to win this one. I hope so.
The book of Joel was written around 800 B.C. As I read Joel 2:5 this morning: “Look at them as they leap along the mountaintops. Listen to the noise they make—like the rumbling of chariots, like the roar of fire sweeping across a field of stubble, or like a mighty army moving into battle.”(Joel 2:5 NLT), I was reminded how amazing the Bible is. This picture of an armed force appears to be referencing fighter jets. Nothing else could be described this way. And this whole prophecy is about the end times and the final battle. God can show us the end with the beginning and give us pictures of what we should do.
Spencer, my seven year old, was doing devotions with me this morning and after contemplating this verse and discussing it, he said, “If you don’t know something you should always pray, because you can hear God and He can help you.”
The application that this little seven year old drew applies to us as well. He recognized that this prophecy applies to us. If God can show us something like what he showed Joel, then he can certainly talk to us about today.
He then asked, “can anyone hear God?” My response was that anyone who listens and wants to hear Him will hear Him. And with practice you can recognize His voice too. It is like Spencer being lost in a crowd. If I yell for him, will he hear me and recognize my voice? Yes, he will. Why? As Spencer said, “Because I hear you talk every day.”
I have been on a stay-cation this week, which has allowed me to get some honey-do’s done. It has also made me realize how much stuff we have accumulated since returning from Croatia five years ago. Then I read this verse, 1 Timothy 6:8, “So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.” (NLT), and I’m wondering if I am truly content with just food and clothing? Would my boys be content with just food and clothing? If not, am I hurting their future as it relates to God’s call on their lives?
The recession has caused all of us to live more simply, but are we learning to be content in it? And have we scaled down enough? I know, a lot of questions with very little answers. But this is what I am working through myself.
Here’s my application:
Take inventory of our stuff and make a list of what I would be content without and what I think I must have (i.e. Cell phones).
Talk with Suzanne about my list and begin taking steps to get rid of the non-essentials.
Cut monthly expenses and be content with less.
There is an interesting story in the book of 2 Kings. Jehu is given, by God, the task of overthrowing an ungodly group of kings. He does just that and, as a result, God promises that his heirs will be kings for four generations. The very next verse, verse 31, says, “But Jehu did not obey the Law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit.” (NLT). There were sins in his life he refused to turn from. Verse 32 shows the result: “God began to take land away from Jehu’s country.”
Wow. The sins I hold on to impact my life. They diminish my influence. Not only that, but they impact others. Just like Jehu, we can do great exploits for God. We can tear down spiritual strongholds and bring freedom to others. But if we hold on to our sin, it will begin to chip away at our effectiveness.
Easy Application: Stop sinning! I have things in my life that I need to let go of: selfish desires, unhealthy thoughts, being too busy, and not praying as often as I know I need to. I need to repent of these things, right now, and start fresh today. You should too.
Something happened this morning as I was reading 1 Timothy 4. I related more to Paul than to Timothy. Last December I turned 40. I still think, and my wife would say ‘act’, like I am 20. But something has changed. My life has taken a turn. No longer am I the pastor trying to prove myself or trying to work so hard to do everything just right. My life is now about how to help the next generation.
See and seize every moment as an opportunity to teach and to mentor.
Start with my own kids and then with the church family.
Be bold in speaking truth, even if the person doesn’t want to hear it.
Do you like being closely examined? Most people don’t like it at the doctor’s office or the pastor’s office. When it comes to discipleship and becoming like Jesus, whether we like it or not, at some point we will be examined. Our lives will be measured.
1 Timothy 3:10 says, “Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons.”
Here is the problem: Christians are in the habit of examining everyone, not just deacons. We place this standard onto those far from God or those who are just starting in their relationship with God. But this standard is kept for those who lead and serve in the church.
Here is my application:
Examine myself constantly.
Allow others to examine my life.
Don’t be timid in examing those who seek to lead and serve in the church.
A couple months ago I was sitting in my office between church services looking out my window, where I can see part of our parking lot. What I noticed did not shock me (I have been in church a long time and have seen just about everything), but it did disappoint me. Two men were having a very heated argument that led to one man jumping in his car and skidding out of the parking lot. Argument unresolved.
Every family, regardless of how healthy it is, fights. The difference between healthy and unhealthy is that one sticks with it until relationship is restored, the other bails.
There are many reasons God puts us in a family: nurturing, care, support. But also, so we can grow. For instance, I did not realize the degree of selfishness that existed in me until after I got married. That one was hard to swallow.
Paul says it really well in Philippians 2:
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (Philippians 2:1-4)
I am thankful I have a church family that I can do life with. I’m better for it and I know others are too. So let’s quickly forgive one another and if we can, do it before you skid out of the parking lot:)