We usually all get what we seek at Christmas – presents, family time, indigestion – but if we seek Jesus we get him in abundance for ‘The grace of God has been revealed to all men’ at Christmastime. Thank you God!
We usually all get what we seek at Christmas – presents, family time, indigestion – but if we seek Jesus we get him in abundance for ‘The grace of God has been revealed to all men’ at Christmastime. Thank you God!
A huge part of our lives as followers of Jesus here on earth revolves around ‘waiting.’ I’ve no idea how many times the Bible tells us to wait (it must run into the hundreds at least) but it’s pretty telling that one of the fruits of the Spirit is patience!
But waiting is SO hard, isn’t it? Even waiting for a bus causes me to grumble, shuffle my feet and constantly check my watch! I must be one of the most impatient people I know – ask Neal. He only has to respond with “Wait a minute…” when asked to do something, to be confronted with the most un-holy displays of impatience, ingratitude and frustration!
In Titus chapter 2 Paul describes how we ladies should behave as we wait for ‘the blessed hope – the appearance of our Lord Jesus.’ Verses 3 and 4 tell us we should be full of dignity and self-control, displaying solid faith, generous love, and patient endurance; loving, respecting and caring for our husbands, children, our homes and each other. We should always model behaviour that will point those who see us to Jesus!
Oh my, such beautiful words (who wouldn’t want to live like this?) but how horribly tough they are to put into practise! But my dear sisters – ‘practise’ is the key word here! It’s only as I repent over each stumble, each impatient word and deed, that I grow in my ability to ‘wait with patience.’ I need to constantly practise being patient, practise being loving, kind and respectful, practise living my life as an example of Godly behaviour, just as a musician needs to practise their instrument. All the while trusting my heavenly Father to forgive my mistakes, clean me up, and set me off again on this bumpy road called life.
Living ‘right’ while we’re waiting relates to every part of our lives. I’m pretty sure we’re all waiting for something – a promise as yet unfulfilled, an improvement in our finances or health, the salvation of a loved one, the restoration of a broken relationship. But whatever we’re waiting for, the message is the same: “…Live self-controlled, upright and Godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope ….”Titus 2:12-13
Here’s a beautiful example of ‘Godly living while waiting.’ My son and daughter-in-law have been waiting for 12 years for a baby of their own. Despite the many disappointments and ever-present heartbreak, they purposed to honour God by bravely sharing their difficult journey through infertility with other couples facing similar problems. They’ve organised several Bible-focused retreats with expert speakers and worship leaders to encourage, support and pray with precious couples who were utterly weary and disillusioned. God has greatly blessed these events over the years.
Then suddenly in April this year their miracle happened – they became pregnant! And on Friday last week my tiny little grandson, Ezra, made his appearance, 7 weeks early but absolutely perfect in every way!
So be encouraged my dear sisters. Whatever it is we’re waiting for, let’s hold onto God, believe His Word, trust Him for the future and be determined to live ‘right’ in the waiting.
It is amazing how one can pick a new message every time you read the Bible. Reading through the book of Titus again I was struck by the words in Chapter 2 verses 3 to 5 on the virtues of a woman.
I pondered whether I would consider myself to be in the older women category or the younger women? Obviously I would like to put myself in the category of the younger women. That has a certain appeal to my vanity as it virtually means my age is static and that is flattering to my ego. This thinking is of course contrary to the spirit of Paul’s teaching in Titus where the outward appearance appears to bear absolutely no relevance and the focus is on eternal life. So my thoughts are indicative of the fact that I have a long way to go on being more Christ like.
The message for the younger woman is so hard in our current generation and God knows I have struggled and failed at so many levels. Paul says in Chapter 2 verses 4-5 that the younger women are 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.”
This is not an easy task! On the face of it I could easily say: but of course I do this every day; of course I love my husband and children and am busy at home, in fact, too busy. However, every time I fail at self-control with my tongue speaking or biting back at something said, I am not reflecting self-control, love or purity. When I think about this scripture, I become instantly uncomfortable in the knowledge that sometimes the love I am giving my children by indulging their every wish is perhaps not pure. After all the best love I can give them is teaching them the values for life and godliness. The instant Amazon purchase for something they are after may stop them nagging at me, but may not necessarily be love and a reflection of the purity that God desires from us. I am also equally baffled by the meaning of the words “subject to their husbands” in this day and age of “independent women” and “gender equality”. These are certainly no easy tasks and it takes God’s grace and the Holy Spirit for us to perceive and understand the meaning of these scriptures for application in our lives on a daily basis. I wonder whether if Paul looked at my life, he would say “you are a good example of what a young Christ like woman should be?” I find myself falling very short if I place myself against the standard God has set before us and am thankful for God’s grace to forgive me every time I fail and the knowledge that “ I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). So I am not there yet, but on my way, as God continues to purify me.
So perhaps it’s easier to switch camp and get the message for 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 train the younger women…(Titus 2:3-4)
I guess this scripture explains why I am drinking more wine; perhaps one is more prone to drinking a bit more as they grow older. I did not drink wine until I got married to my husband but I can admit that the amount has gone up every year and whilst my coffee addiction is more prevalent than the wine drinking, the question is: “Can I be considered to be reverent in the way I live? Am I a slanderer? Am I teaching what is good or in fact am I teaching anyone at all? Paul adds to the older women the responsibility to teach the younger woman. It would appear that if I do not learn the virtues Paul specified for the younger woman, I will not in fact be qualified to train the younger women as an older woman.
We live in a society that appreciates the importance of qualifications to do a job, the need for training and career progression. How much more important it is to understand the message for daily living and eternal life on how we must live our lives, acquiring God’s virtues for godliness, acknowledging we are in training, so that we can reflect Christ to the world so that “no-one will malign the word of God”.
I am encouraged that whilst I can achieve none of the required traits or virtues on my own, there is abundant grace for me and for you as Paul says:
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, 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” (Titus 2:11-14).
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23.
After travelling internationally three times in October, I am happy to stay on the ground for awhile! But I am not sure where the time is going…I was in Sainsburys the other day and everything is Christmas! Where did November go????
Well, actually it hasn’t gone just yet, because we have our Titus Bible Study, The Good life, coming up on Monday night, 26 November at 7:30 in the CBC Church Hall. I and my study buddy considered Titus 2:1-10 bible study along with the relevant cross references. It is comforting, challenging and thought provoking. I hope you will not miss the chance to do this study with your study buddy!
Studying about self control in this Titus context has really driven home to me the importance of humbly cooperating and obeying the Holy Spirit as I grow and mature- cuz’ I certainly can’t do it in my own strength! How about you?
It comes down once again to our heart. When we diminish the importance of this fruit of self-control and fill it instead with self -indulgence, self justification, and all the other “selfs” in any area of our lives(and there are lots of areas if you really think about it), God will give us what we want. And our hearts will begin to darken. But…God’s grace through His Holy Spirit is ever drawing us to Him; to redirect and give us the desire for the “true good life” only found in Christ.
It doesn’t have to be gloomy because we are God’s girls! Instead, let’s pray for one another and be honest with one another where we lack self- control. As we grow together, we will grasp the freedom Christ gives us as we bear fruit for Him.
See you Monday!
You don’t have to know me for very long before you realise that I tend to overthink things. One minute I’m resolving to not only live out my faith but be bolder in doing so, and the next I’m thoroughly bogged down, agonising over just how difficult it is to put this into practice.
I read Titus 2.1-10 and initially it seems simple: Teach (or learn) sound doctrine, live lives that reflect sound doctrine and the effect will be so compellingly attractive to others that it will actually ‘adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour’ (ESV) in the eyes of onlookers. Namely, even those who want to reject the teaching about God will have to concede that the fruit of accepting Christ into one’s life is beautiful.
Wow! Everything within me is saying ‘Yes God – I’m so on board with this! Please help me to live a life that honours you and your word and please help me to demonstrate your love and the beauty of your amazing grace to everyone I meet.’ So far, so good.
But wait, in verse 8 Paul acknowledges that there will be ‘opponents’ who will try to find ways to condemn what we say and point out perceived evil in our way of thinking. We only need to switch on the TV or venture onto social media to see what this looks like in our day and age.
Far from finding sound doctrine / biblical principles attractive, many think them intolerant, unloving, and backward and when they think of people expressing or promoting these values, they deem it as an abhorrent attack on their human rights.
Do people really connect pleasant interactions with Christians with their understanding of biblical principles? How do we make sure we’re not just adorning ourselves as ‘nice’ people in their eyes and instead truly ‘adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour’ by honouring Him and upholding it?
Here I am, thoroughly bogged down. How do I avoid damaging conflict without staying silent when I should speak? How do I gently help people to grapple with ‘hard teachings’ in the Bible so they get to a point where they can understand God’s heart in the matter? How do I make sure I don’t give people the impression that I don’t really believe the word of God by being defensive, apologetic or embarrassed when I shouldn’t be?
It’s at this point I notice how the focus of all my questions has been on myself and not God. If I had to get all the above right in my own strength, I’d be in big trouble! But thankfully that is not the case. I need to stop worrying about my inadequacies and start trusting in God’s power and sufficiency.
I really can simply concentrate on living for God and let his Holy Spirit work in the lives of the people I meet.
‘But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.’
2 Corinthians 2.14-16a (ESV)
I’ve been really excited that we’re studying Titus this term, especially as it’s such a small book that we can really get our teeth into the ‘meat’ of it. I also love that Titus is a really practical book and isn’t afraid to state things plainly.
That’s why I have to admit that I used to be a little shocked by the fact that in Chapter 2 verse 12, it says that the world we live in is an “evil” one. Going for a walk in beautiful Corsham on a sunny morning, most people would be hard pressed to agree with this statement. It seems a little over-dramatic. But God’s Word is always true and always wise – and, as usual, has been proved so for me.
We have recently had a family bereavement, in horrible circumstances. The impact of it is widespread, and will be long lasting, but the encouragement of Titus has been significant for me. Despite living in this evil world, with seemingly senseless sadness all around us, Paul writes that we are to live “with wisdom, righteousness and devotion to God.” What clear and specific instruction to help lift us up out of the mire and refocus us on what matters: giving God the glory.
However, my favourite section of Titus is the one that follows:
“While we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.”
I find it so refreshing to turn my eyes away from the mess of the here and now and look forward to what God, “who does not lie”, has promised to his children – his daughters – us! This life is such a small part of God’s glorious plan for us, but what is equally amazing is that it can be used for such a great purpose – to reveal Jesus to others who need him just as badly.
I’m grateful that God is always with us in this world, and is always ready to hear our cries and comfort us in our tears. We are having many moments like that just now. But I am more grateful that he was willing – determined, even – to send his Son so that we can have a glorious future ahead of us with our loving heavenly Father, no matter what our earthly lives hold. I hope you find that as much of an encouragement as I do. As Paul writes at the end of the letter,
“May God’s grace be with you all.”
Tonight is the Light Party at Corsham Baptist church on Priory street! It is from 5-7 with games and activities! No need to book!
I love to be a part of a gospel alternative on this day where children love dressing up and getting candy!!! So everyone welcome!
It also brings me to ponder…….The following is a prayer from Scotty Smith about All Saints Day (31 Oct) which is on the ancient church calendar. I found it very helpful in understanding and appreciating the Gospel a little bit more. So I want to share with you. It is well worth a read!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2
“Lord Jesus, on the ancient church calendar, this is the day we celebrate All Saints’ Day – a time for remembering our faithful brothers and sisters who have gone on before us into heaven, leaving us examples of commendable spirituality. It’s also Halloween- a celebration of hideous attire, doorbell ringing, and tooth decay. I never really thought about how much these two seemingly antithetical dates have in common until now.
For a good part of my life I thought the “cloud of witnesses” referred to in this passage was to be understood as a huge crowd of spiritual giants peering down from heaven onto the earthly playing field of Christianity, cheering me on in the righteousness race, pulling for me to make it across the finish line. Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the apostle Paull….all winners now motivating me to do well, persevere, and finish strong.
Jesus, all that led to was pride in my performance or despairing of my failures, depending on the day. I got the “treat” if I performed well. I got the “trick” if I performed poorly. I now understand that there’s no more ghoulish or ghastly costume to wear than my own efforts to appease and please you. The one thing Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul all had in common was their abject brokenness and consuming need of your grace- which you freely gave them.
So today, Jesus, I purpose yet again to fix my gaze on you, the author and finisher of my faith. I’m only a saint because the Father has hidden my life in yours. My only “dress” is your righteousness, plus nothing. I will run and finish the race because in you, Jesus, I live, move, and have my being. I will make it to heaven not because of my efforts but because of yours. I’ll not busy myself with tricks or treats, because everything that is yours is now mine, Lord Jesus. What wondrous love and eternal inheritance is this, indeed!
And I will remember, with great joy, the gospel heroes you have given me: the men and women who have turned away from unrighteousness and self-righteousness to Christ-righteousness, those dear saints who make me hunger and thirst for more gospel astonishment and gospel righteousness. I pray in your name, Jesus. Amen.”
Confessing God and faith can sometimes be the easy part if you have been a Christian for some years. When faced with life’s challenges, curve balls and the daily grind of life, I find it hard not to deny God by my actions. This is the challenge presented to us by Paul in Titus 1:16 that we should not deny God by our actions.
I was recently put to the test by an unexpected house move. A tenant of our property failed to pay the rent, did not give notice and left the country abandoning her belongings and the property in a terrible state. As we sifted through the mess to try and discern what items were clearly rubbish and what to keep in storage until an appropriate time, I found two items that moved me. One was a Bible that had been given to her early in life, and it stood out in sharp contrast to the clear evidence that she was into New Age. I wondered how often the pages of the Bible had been read and why she had turned to New Age. The other item was a book that had been given to her as a present for her to write about her children. This book had one sentence written in it: “Only one thing to say: “I am a horrible mother!” In that moment I realized the need to pray for the tenant as a mother in crisis and pray a blessing upon her and her children. I also became very aware that the only thing that separated me from that mother was God’s saving grace for which I am so grateful.
As we progressed with the house move and presented with an endless task list, I found myself reflecting on the burden placed on the children of Israel as slaves in Egypt. I know that sounds dramatic and on the face of it I cannot compare to people working under such duress with a whip on the back for no personal gain. However the task and pressure appeared insurmountable, that whilst I was at all times aware of God’s hand and the prayers of our Church family, there was a constant reminder of our human limitations as we needed to dig deeper. At my worst moments of utter panic, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, my biggest temptation was to throw a big fat pity party and wallow in self-pity. However, the deadlines, financial implications and the need to be strong as a mother did not seem to give me any such room. And then… my progress report to my husband turned into a narrative that ran along the lines of: “I did this, and I did that and I ….”!! I felt myself grow brittle, cold and less acknowledging of other people’s achievements. I had a serious sense of self-righteousness and was less tolerant of others who seemed to be ambling through life. I was no different from King Nebuchadnezzar, who in his great moment of pride stated: “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” following which he was stripped of power and lived like a wild animal until he acknowledged the most High God (Daniel 4). Isn’t God gracious! Paul challenges us in Titus to be God’s own, devoted to doing good, sound in faith, love and endurance. How else can we achieve that except by learning to surrender to God’s grace, die to self and let God reign in our thinking, talking and actions?
May God help us to remember that choosing to be a servant of God means we can:
Reach out to the hurting and lost in grace;
Climb mountains and get to the top in the knowledge that God helped us scale the mountain when we could have been overcome;
Have a bad night and make it through the day because God’s grace is sufficient for us and His power is made perfect in weakness;
Move forward in faith in the areas where we lack every confidence because we are made in the image of God and therefore made for greatness; and
Count on Him who gives wisdom to all graciously, in our moments of greatest foolishness.
In this state of servanthood, we are at peace, live by grace, through grace, doing what is good and live a good life. God bless you.
Do you have a Bible verse that no matter how often you read it, no matter how many sermons you hear on it, no matter how many times you sing it even, you are still like, “Yeah right!”?
For me that verse is the very well known Romans 8:1:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
My head memorises it but my heart struggles. I open the Bible and feel condemned.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Blimey, my life looks nothing like this! I’m grumpy and miserable. Hours go by when I don’t give God a thought. I am horribly ungrateful in the good times, never mind the bad. I talk to Christian friends and feel condemned for my parenting choices, the way I spend my time and the lack of daily quiet times. I look in the mirror and know my sin and feel crushed by it.
The Romans verse which does totally reflect my life is:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. Romans 7:15
This lack of truly grasping Christ’s promises so completely infiltrates my thinking that I had been listening to a Casting Crowns song for weeks thinking it was saying:
“I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just BEHAVE”
Weeks went by and every time I heard it I felt worse reflecting on all the times I had let God down that day.
BUT… Praise God for his spirit of wisdom and pray that I am ever more open to it.
Guess what happened when I really listened to the song? I realised what it actually said was:
“Just be HELD.”
It is not all about me, it is all about GOD.
This spiritual prod made me go back and reflect deeply on my attitude, you see I was half right. Here’s what I concluded:
-The Bible is a mirror which we look in and it shows us our faults.
-My Christian friends do model ways of living which I should strive towards.
-A frank look in the mirror will always show vast areas which could be improved.
So the initial assessment was right, but I had forgotten the crucial thing. I was forgetting the cross of Christ which changes all of this. As ever, reading one short verse out of context means you miss the bigger picture.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2
The lack of condemnation is not because I deserve it, it is BECAUSE of Christ.
All this means that although I am still a disaster doomed always to fail and fall short, I am also a wonky clay pot who is being shaped for God’s purposes. So the next time I hear the voice of condemnation I have to stop and reflect. I need to actively avoid the 2 different traps. Both the downward spiral of guilt and shame which leads to a pity party and the defensive angry bounce back to “At least I’m not as bad as ….” Instead I need to look on it as a poke from God to get me back on track and ready for the good works he has prepared for me.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Even if the task of living a godly life seems overwhelming, just trust that God is with me and will hold me as I keep my eyes focused on the cross and praise God that:
There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.
“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3 NIV
Last week I met my third grandchild! My grand daughter, Sloane, is four months old and such a blessing! Sweet little coos and smiles as well as hungry cries consistently emanate from this little poppet. There is never a doubt when she is ready for her milk! When the bottle comes into her vision, she wails even more loudly until she latches on to the bottle. Her eyes roll back into her head as she murmurs sweetly- and she always…always….has a hunger for more in about three hours!
In the verse for today, Peter tells us to long for “spiritual milk” (biblical truth) so that we may grow up (become mature) in our salvation. Peter is using the “milk” word picture to point out how eagerly we should consume the Word of God; just like my grand daughter Sloane whose singular focus and enthusiasm is evident when it is time for her feeding.
The Word of God in Scripture is where and how we grow in holiness and love others properly; where God reveals who He is-His character and our salvation in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit draws us to His love and grace. As we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, God wakes us up to what it is to be His children. It is a way of life-not an add on where we fit God in with our own desires and agendas. No, it changes us! The darkness which covers our understanding is taken away as we follow the Lord. And as we follow the Lord, we are transformed into the likeness of Christ more and more. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
So let’s ask ourselves these questions:
Do we crave the Word of God with a singular focus and enthusiasm like Sloane has for her milk?
Or, are we indifferent, thinking that the study of Scripture doesn’t really contribute to our Christian maturity? Or worse, are we just going through the motions of being a “decent person” and trying to use God for our own ends?
Sadly, for many years I stumbled along this indifferent road, and sat miserably on the unhappy and disillusioned fence of living like the culture around me and trying to fit in God and His ways where it suited me. I was deceived into thinking that the lifelong process of reading/studying the Bible wasn’t vital to knowing God and realizing His love and grace for me. But God wouldn’t have it! I became so miserable, that as I cried out to Him, the Holy Spirit began to open my deceived eyes and heart. I began to understand that God’s grace doesn’t stop at salvation, (Romans 5:2) and that I need to trust and obey God through His Word! I still have a long way to go and will still be learning and growing until the Lord takes me home. But my gift of salvation is bearing fruit in service to God and others, and love for God and others. Some days are still difficult. Of course I struggle. I am a sinner saved by God’s grace. But the Lord is transforming me one day at a time as I struggle with Gospel hope and joy.
His salvation rescue and eternal life are only the beginning of the Good Life God has for us to live as we are studying in Titus. Growing to maturity is the call of every follower of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray to our Lord and Saviour to increase our hunger for His Word. Let’s encourage each other to take steps to study it eagerly so that we may know and love God more every day, love others, and grow to maturity. (Ephesians 4:16)