Reminders

Isaiah 63-64, Titus 3

Life is so busy and complicated that I have to create lots of reminders for myself.  Fortunately, my phone and computer and watch all have features where I can set reminders for myself.  “Doctors appointment Tuesday at 3:00.  Take the garbage to the dump on the way to work in the morning.  Stop by the store after work and pick up some milk and bread.” I can even set reminders months or years in advance.  I can set alarms to remind me that in 2 hours I have a meeting.  In 1 hour I have a meeting.  In 15 minutes I have a meeting.  The Meeting is now starting.  Maybe I’m too busy or maybe I’m getting old, but I find myself more and more needing reminders.

Do you ever need reminders?  Little kids need to be reminded to brush their teeth, make their bed, do their homework.  What do you need reminders for?

The Apostle Paul thought reminders were important for Christians.  I guess he understood how easy it can be to forget what’s important when we are busy living life and doing  what’s necessary or urgent.  Do Christians ever forget important things about God, about Jesus, about how we are supposed to live?  Yep, we sure do.

In Titus 3 Paul tells Titus to remind the believers of some important things.

“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 always to be gentle toward everyone.” -Titus 3:1-2

Those reminders were important in the first century when Christianity was brand new and people were still learning the basics, but it’s been 2000 years.  We’ve certainly got being a Christian all figured out by now, don’t we?  Do we really need to be reminded to obey people in authority?  Do we need to be reminded to always be ready to do good?  Don’t all Christians always do what is good?   Certainly we never  slander or falsely accuse someone of wrong doing.  I’m always peaceable and considerate and gentle toward everyone, aren’t you? (My tongue is in my cheek- that means I’m kidding).

To tell the truth, I still need to be reminded all of those things.  Just because I’ve been reading the Bible for over 50 years doesn’t mean I always remember to do good.  I still need to be reminded to be considerate and gentle, and so do you.  That’s why Christianity was never designed to be lived in isolation, but in community.  We need each other.  There’s a passage in Hebrews (a different book from today’s reading,  but important) Hebrews 10:24-25 says that Christians shouldn’t get out of the habit of meeting together, because we need to encourage (I think Hebrews says “spur one another on”, like a rider spurs on a horse) each other.  

Following Jesus is hard some times.  Being obedient to God is hard some times.  Remembering to do good and be gentle is hard sometimes.  I need help, I need encouragement to keep on doing what is right.  I need you, and you need me, we need each other.

I’ve read the Bible many times in my life and I need to keep on reading it to help me remember all the important things I need to remember.  Today’s readings in Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3 remind us both about God’s wrath and about God’s mercy.  God has both.  God hates sin, he hates it when his children are brutal to each other.  He hates it when his children fight and argue.  He hates sin because he loves us and he knows that sin hurts us.  We hurt each other when we sin.  No parent likes to see their children hurt each other.  We learned that from our Father, God.

So keep reading your Bible and keep coming to Church and meeting with other believers so that you can remind them and they can remind you to keep on following Jesus.

“Hey Siri  set a reminder for 7 a.m. tomorrow:  be considerate and gentle to everyone.”

“Alexa, remind me to get up for Church Sunday at 8:00.”

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Isaiah 63-64 and Titus 3

Good News and Bad News

I’ve got some good news and some bad news.  Which would you like first?  If you’re like me, you’d prefer to rip the band-aid off and get the bad news over with and finish with the good news.  So let’s get to it.

The bad news.  Humans have made a pretty big mess out of this world.  Yes, we’ve done some amazingly good things too, but we’ve made an awful mess of the world.  One of my ministry settings is as a hospital chaplain.  When I visit with patients, a lot of them are there because either they, or someone else, has made a huge mess of their lives.  Sometimes it’s from drug or alcohol abuse, sometimes they are victim of crime, often they have not taken very good care of their bodies.  Sometimes they’ve been in such despair that they attempted to end their life by suicide.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time listing the ways human beings have made a mess out of the world, if you need proof, just turn on the news for an hour or two.

Here’s the thing about messes, you can ignore them, and they will simply get worse, or you can clean them up.  Usually when you clean up a mess you preserve somethings and you discard others.  You try to salvage what is worth saving and discard what isn’t.  That requires some decision making.  What to keep and what to discard.  If you want clean dishes, you have to discard the dirty stuff that’s on the dishes.  If you want a clean house, you have to purge the junk.  If you don’t ever throw anything out then you become a hoarder and that’s an awful mess and no way to live a flourishing and happy life.

In today’s first reading in Isaiah, Israel had made quite a mess.  They failed to be faithful to YHWH, the God who created them and called them to be His.  Despite warnings and pleadings, Israel worshipped other gods.  They failed to give YHWH their exclusive love and devotion.  After numerous attempts to get them to stop, God finally allowed them to face the consequences of their unfaithfulness.  God allowed their enemies to conquer them, destroy their beloved temple and city, Jerusalem, and they went into captivity for 70 years.  That was the bad news.

Now for the good news.  God was going to rescue them, restore them and return them to their beloved Jerusalem.  

Isaiah 61

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a] to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”

Isaiah goes on to describe how much better things will be for God’s people.  He uses the image of a bride being rejoiced over by her groom.  God’s love for his people is great.

Toward the end of the section is the promise: ” ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him”

Notice God’s rescue of his people is good news for some, and bad news for others.  It’s both the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance.  

Think about WWII for a minute.  When the Allied Forces defeated Hitler and his armies and came to the internment camps like Auschwitz, it was good news for the prisoners, but bad news for the German army.  Hitler chose suicide over the swift justice that was sure to come.  For the men and woman who were set free it was good news but for the perpetrators of injustice it was a day of vengeance.

Jesus is coming again.  In Titus 2 we are told:

“1For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 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.”

God’s purpose in allowing His people Israel to face judgement was his way of cleaning up the mess that they had made and giving them a chance to start fresh, free from the worship of idols.

God’s purpose in sending Jesus was to extend the opportunity of salvation to all people, again, to clean up the mess and rescue those who are willing to receive the grace of God.  While we are waiting for Jesus to come and all the mess to be finally cleaned up, God invites us in the name of Jesus to follow him and live Godly lives, rejecting the mess of the world.

The world is a mess and God is fully and finally going to clean it up through the coming of Jesus Christ.  For those who reject God’s grace and mercy it will be a day of vengeance.   While we wait, God is working in our lives to clean up our messes and put us to work doing good, helping point others to God.  Are you willing to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions?  Are you willing to be different (FUEL 2019).  Are you eager to do what is good?  God wants to purify you and put you to work.  Are you willing?

-Jeff Fletcher

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at Biblegateway.com here. Isaiah 61-62 and Titus 2.

“This time the mission is a man.”

Daily reading: Titus 1-3

In the movie Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks’ character spends the bulk of the film working to save the life of one man, Private James Francis Ryan, who is slated to be sent home after his three brothers have all been killed in combat. Near the close of the film, Hanks leans in to Matt Damon, who plays Private Ryan and whispers his last words, “Earn this.”

The final scene of the movie is both touching and convicting. Ryan, now an old man, stands at the grave of the man who gave his life to save him and he weeps. He looks to his wife, “Tell me I’ve lived a good life,” he says, “Tell me I’m a good man.”

(Here’s the scene, if you want to give it a watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZgoufN99n8)

For him, the reality of living a good life in response to the sacrifice that was made on his behalf was tangible because he had looked in the eyes of the man who died in his place. I think, perhaps, we miss something because we can’t do that, don’t you?

Paul wanted us to think about doing good with our lives. It seemed to be important to him.

His letter to Titus is not long. It’s only 46 verses. But almost 1/5 of them talk about doing what is good (17.5% for you math heads out there).

“I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.”

Our lives as believers preach louder than any Bible verses we post to our Facebook pages or how pious we consider ourselves to be. Perhaps that’s why Paul concludes his letter to Titus with the reminder that,

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”

We all know that we can’t earn salvation, but we can earn (or lose) other people’s trust.

— The way that we speak to, and about, our parents or our spouse could make someone want to know more about the God we serve…or less.

— The integrity we exhibit at work might make them want to pick up a Bible…or never set foot in a church.

— Our gentleness, kindness, and considerate behavior may be the thing that draws someone to experience the love of God for the first time…or they might come to believe that God is rude and harsh and uncaring.

To put it another way… why would your unbelieving boss want to consider Christianity if you are the laziest employee they have? Or… Do you think anyone cares how many Bible verses you know if you make everyone around you feel like garbage?

We can all fall into the self-focused trap far too easily. So here’s your reminder that (and you might need to sit down for this): It’s not about you.

I had kind of an ‘a-ha’ moment in Sunday morning worship not too long ago when we were singing the song, Awakening. Some of the lyrics say,

For the world You love
Your will be done
Let Your will be done in me

Praying for God’s will to be done in your life is a good thing no matter what. But it hit me over the head that Sunday morning that the purpose of Him wanting to do his will in my life wasn’t just for me. “For the world you love…”

While we can’t ever “Earn this” we can embrace the passionate and intentional living that Private Ryan embraced and regularly examine ourselves with questions like he asked…Am I living a good life?

Or more specifically… Is how I’m living drawing people towards God or repelling them from Him? Am I reflecting Him accurately?

Am I devoting myself to doing what is good?

-Susan Landry

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Titus 1-3

Tomorrow we will read 1st Peter 1-5.

Requirements

Titus & Philemon

Did you panic a little bit when you found you had to read two entire books of the Bible today? As you have hopefully found now both Titus and Philemon are pretty short books. In fact, Philemon checks in as the third shortest book of the Bible (only 2 John and 3 John are shorter).

First, let’s talk about Titus.  If you owned a business and were looking to hire managers to oversee the company what would you require?  Would your job posting read that the applicant needed silky hair, mad four-square skills, and a deep love of chicken nuggets?  If so your company would probably not be in business for long because there would be no purpose behind the requirements you wanted. Hopefully, your requirements might be along the lines of:  must be self-controlled, honest and just.  If so you and God have those requirements in common except these are the requirements that God asks of the elders of the church which is a person who “manages God’s household” (Titus 1:7).

He also has requirements for those who aren’t elders.  In chapters 2 and 3, Paul outlines what God expects from everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. It says in chapter 3 verse 1- 2 that we are, “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign (which means to harm) no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

Paul carries over the idea of being peaceable and gentle in the book of Philemon.  Paul writes to Philemon, who is a brother in Christ, concerning a slave named Onesimus.  It seems that Onesimus was full of passion for spreading God’s word so he ran away from his master Philemon to join Paul.  Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon and requested that Philemon would, “accept him as you would me” (vs.17).  Paul treats both parties with grace and love to resolve the issue at hand and so once again practices what he preaches showing that he is a fully committed follower of God just as we are to be.

-Lacey Dunn