Remind The People

Remind the believers to . . . show true humility to everyone. —Titus 3:1–2 nlt

In a typical week, many of us receive a number of emails reminding us of appointments or upcoming events or requests to pray for someone. All of them are needed reminders.

When Paul wrote his “papyrus mail” to Titus, he ended his note by saying, “Remind the believers . . .” (3:1 nlt). We can assume from Paul’s word choice that he had already written about these things. But they were of such importance to the people in the church that he repeated them so they wouldn’t forget.

Notice what Paul didn’t want them to miss. He reminded the people— living under the oppressive Roman rule—“to be subject to rulers and authorities” (v.1). It was important to be known for obedience; for doing what is good; for not slandering; for being peaceful and considerate; and for humility rather than for complaining. Their behavior was to showcase the change made in their lives by following Christ (vv.3-5).

How could they—and we—do that? “The Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us . . . through Jesus Christ” enables us to “devote [ourselves] to doing what is good” (vv.5-6,8 niv). It is through Jesus’ great gift of salvation that we are equipped to influence our world for good. That’s a reminder we all need.

Lord, remind us how important it is that we obey You and treat others the way we want to be
treated.  Remind us that Your salvation enables us to live as lights in a dark world.

A Christian’s life is a window through which others can see Jesus.

INSIGHT: Twice Paul asked his protégé Titus to remind believers to always be ready to do good works (vv. 1,8). Although we are saved by God’s mercy and grace and not by what we do (vv. 4-7), our works are the evidence of our faith. Paul taught in Ephesians 2:8-10: “God saved you by his grace . . . . Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done. . . . He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT).

All Aboard

The Lord is . . . longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish. —2 Peter 3:9

One day when I dropped my husband off at our local train station, I watched as the conductor scanned the area for stragglers. A woman with wet hair bounded from the parking lot and up into the train. Then, a man in a dark suit strode to the platform and climbed aboard. The conductor waited patiently while several more late-comers sprinted to the tracks and boarded at the last moment.

Just as the conductor was patient with people boarding the train, God patiently waits for people to come to know Him. However, someday Jesus will return and “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:10). When this happens, or when our physical bodies die, it will be too late to establish a relationship with God.

“The Lord is . . . longsuffering toward us,” Peter says, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (v.9). If you have delayed deciding to follow Christ, there is good news—you can still commit yourself to Him. “If you declare with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9 niv). He is calling. Will you run in His direction?

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me. —Thompson

Now is the time to choose the Lord.

INSIGHT: Peter wrote to a persecuted and suffering group of Christians, which is why he highlighted the faithfulness of God. Peter wanted them to remember that the Lord would fulfill the promise of His second coming (v. 13).

The Squeaky Wheel

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. —James 5:16 niv

“The squeaky wheel gets the oil” is a popular proverb. As a child I rode my bicycle for long distances between home and school, and the squeaky sounds of the wheels drew my attention to the need to lubricate them.

In Luke 18, the widow’s persistent request to the judge for justice against her adversary made her sound like a “squeaky wheel” until she got the result she needed. Luke explains that Jesus told this story to teach us the need to pray continually and not to give up, even if it appears that the answer to our prayer is delayed (vv.1-5).

God is certainly not an unjust judge who must be harassed before He responds to us. He is our loving Father who cares about us and hears us when we cry to Him. Regular, persistent prayer draws us closer to Him. It may feel like we are a squeaky wheel, but the Lord welcomes our prayer and encourages us to approach Him with our cries. He hears us and will come to our aid in ways that we may not expect.

As Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:5-8, constant prayer does not require long periods of “vain repetitions.” Rather, as we bring our needs before God “day and night” (Luke 18:7) and walk with the One who already knows our needs, we learn to trust God and wait patiently for His response.

For Further Study
To read more about prayer, check out the online booklet Why Doesn’t God Answer Me at Discovery Series
Don’t give up—God hears you when you pray!
INSIGHT: Parables have often been defined as “earthly stories with heavenly meanings.” Usually taken from the everyday things of life, they contain memorable truths encased in ordinary illustrations. One of the primary features of Luke’s gospel is its emphasis on the teachings of Jesus through parables. Luke records 27 of Jesus’ parables, more than any other gospel account. These include the good Samaritan (ch. 10), the mustard seed (ch. 13), and the prodigal son (ch. 15). Matthew contains 22 parables, while Mark includes only 9. Interestingly, John’s gospel contains no parables at all.

The School Of Pain

I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. —Psalm 119:75

In his book The Problem of Pain, C. S. Lewis observes that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Suffering often helps us to redirect our focus. It shifts our thinking from immediate circumstances so we can listen to God concerning His work in our lives. Life as usual is replaced by a spiritual schoolroom.

In the Old Testament, we read how the psalmist maintained a teachable heart even during painful circumstances. He accepted them as orchestrated by God, and in submission he prayed, “In faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Ps. 119:75). Isaiah the prophet viewed suffering as a refining process: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Isa. 48:10). And Job, despite his laments, learned about the sovereignty and greatness of God through his troubles (Job 40–42).

We are not alone in our experience of pain. God Himself took on human form and suffered greatly: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). The One with nail-scarred hands is near. He will comfort us and teach us in our suffering.

Dear Lord, life is so hard sometimes. I confess that I don’t always see Your purpose in my trials. Help me
to trust You, and teach me to become the person that You desire me to be.
We learn the lesson of trust in the school of trial.
INSIGHT: Psalm 119 speaks of the priority and sufficiency of God’s Word in the daily life of the believer. Here the psalmist admitted that he had strayed, but having been disciplined by God, he now resolved to “keep [His] Word” (v. 67).

Heart Of Joy

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. —John 15:11

While waiting in the gate area of Singapore’s Changi Airport to board my flight, I noticed a young family—mom, dad, and son. The area was crowded, and they were looking for a place to sit. Suddenly, the little boy began loudly singing “Joy to the World.” He was about 6 years old, so I was pretty impressed that he knew all the words.

What captured my attention even more was the look on the boy’s face—his beaming smile matched the words he was singing as he proclaimed to everyone at the gate the joy of the Christ who has come.

This joy is not limited to exuberant children nor should it be confined to the Christmas season. The overflowing joy of knowing Christ’s presence in our lives was one of the themes of Jesus’ final teaching with His disciples the night before He died on the cross. He told them of His extravagant love for them—that He loved them as the Father loved Him (John 15:9). After sharing what this eternal relationship looks like, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (v.11).

What a promise! Through Jesus Christ our hearts can be filled with joy—real joy!

Lord, You have chosen me and redeemed me, crowned me with love and compassion. I can do nothing less than overflow with joy at Your great love for me, for those I love, and for the world.
In every season of life we can know joy in Christ.
INSIGHT: Jesus often spoke in picturesque language to help people understand what He was saying. In today’s passage, He explains the relationship between Himself and His followers by talking about a vine. The key word in this passage is “abide,” which is used 10 times. We stay connected to (abide in) Him (the vine) by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the reading of His Word, and through prayer. In this way (the branches) remain in fellowship with Him and know true joy.

The Best Wedding Ever

The marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. —Revelation 19:7

Within the last 800 or so years, a new custom has been added to the Jewish wedding ceremony. At the very end, the groom crushes a wine glass under his foot. One explanation of this is that the shattering of the glass symbolizes the destruction of the temple in ad 70. Young couples are encouraged to remember, as they establish their own homes, that God’s home had been destroyed.

God is not homeless, however. He has just chosen a new place to live—in us, His followers. In the metaphors of Scripture, believers are both the bride of Christ and the temple in which God lives. God is fitting His people together to build a new home that will be His permanent dwelling place. At the same time, He is preparing the bride and planning a wedding that will include all of God’s family from the beginning of time.

Our part is easy though sometimes painful. We cooperate with God as He is at work in us to make us more like His Son Jesus. Then some day, at the best wedding ever, our Lord will present us to Himself without spot or wrinkle. We will be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:27). This wedding will bring an end to all sorrow and suffering.

Finish then Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be;
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee. —Wesley
The return of Jesus is sure.
INSIGHT: Our eternal home is so different from our current earthly home that it is described by what is missing rather than by what is present—no tears, sorrow, death, crying, or pain. “The former things” (v. 4) of this earth will be no more.

One Who Serves

Yet I am among you as the One who serves. —Luke 22:27

“I’m nobody’s servant!” I cried out. That morning the demands of my family seemed too much as I frantically helped to find my husband’s blue tie, while feeding the crying baby and recovering the lost toy from under the bed for our 2-year-old.

Later on that day, as I was reading the Bible, I came across this verse: “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Jesus didn’t have to wash His disciples’ feet, yet He did (John 13:5). There were servants who did that job, but Jesus chose to serve them. Today’s society insists that we should aim to “be somebody.” We want the best-paying job, the highest position in the company, the top leadership in church. Yet whatever position we are in, we can learn from our Savior to serve.

We hold different roles as parents, children, friends, workers, leaders, or students. The question is this: Do we carry out those roles with an attitude of service? Even though my everyday routine is sometimes tiring, I’m thankful the Master will help me because I do want to follow His steps and willingly serve others.

May God help us to do this each day.

Dear Lord, I know that You did not come to be served, but to serve. Sometimes I fail to think of others, but I want to be like You. Please give me a heart like Yours.
We need a servant’s attitude to be like Jesus.
INSIGHT: Verse 24 says that the disciples argued about who was the greatest. This was an ongoing dispute because on two earlier occasions they had displayed their desire to be first. They fought while returning to Capernaum (Matt. 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48) and again on one of their trips into Jerusalem (Matt. 20:17-28; Mark 10:32-45). Now here, just hours before Jesus was crucified, while the disciples were observing one of their most sacred feasts, the Passover meal, they quarreled over who was the greatest (Luke 22:14-24). Rebuking them, Jesus said that true greatness is determined not by hierarchical authority (v. 25) but by service and humility (v. 26).

In Every Generation

The Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. —Psalm 100:5

It may seem surprising when children don’t follow their parents’ example of faith in God. Equally unexpected is a person with a deep commitment to Christ who emerges from a family where faith was not present. In every generation, each person has a choice.

Samuel was a great man of God who appointed his two sons, Joel and Abijah, as leaders over Israel (1 Sam. 8:1-2). Unlike their father, however, they were corrupt and “turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice” (v.3). Yet, years later, we find Heman, Joel’s son, appointed as a musician in the house of the Lord (1 Chron. 6:31-33). Heman, Samuel’s grandson—along with Asaph, his right-hand man and the author of many of the psalms—served the Lord by singing joyful songs (15:16-17).

Even though a person seems indifferent toward the faith so precious to his or her parents, God is still at work. Things can change in later years, and seeds of faith may spring to life in generations to come.

No matter what the family situation may be, we know that “the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

Dear Lord, help me to remember that You are the one who causes the seed of faith to grow. We give our loved ones into Your care, knowing that the end of the story has not yet been written.
God’s faithfulness extends to all generations.
INSIGHT: Psalm 100 is a short psalm—only five verses—in which we are encouraged to shout, serve, sing, give thanks, praise, and bless the Lord. We should shout joyfully, serve gladly, and bless Him because the Lord is God; because He made us and we belong to Him (v. 3); and because He is good, merciful, and always true (v. 5).

Correct Gently

Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another. —Colossians 3:12-13

At the end of a conference in Nairobi, Kenya, our group traveled from the conference center to a guesthouse to prepare to fly back home the next morning. When we arrived, one person in our group reported that she had forgotten her luggage back at the conference center. After she left to retrieve it, our group leader (always meticulous on detail) criticized her sharply to us in her absence.

The next morning when we arrived at the airport, the leader discovered to his dismay that he too had left his luggage behind. It and his passport were back at the guesthouse. It was now going to cost us even more to go for his baggage. Later, he apologized and said to all of us, “I’ll never criticize so harshly again!”

Because we all have faults and weaknesses, we should bear with one another and forgive each other when things go wrong (Col. 3:13). We need to be constructive in our criticism and “clothe [our]selves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (v.12 niv).

When correction is necessary, it should be done with kindness and love. In that way we become imitators of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear God, You know that there are times when I just don’t feel patient and humble and gentle. Those days in my life, the fruit of Your Spirit seems in short supply. Please enable me to love others today.
The keys to effective relationships are gentleness and humility.
INSIGHT: Paul’s admonition in verse 16—that we are to allow “the word of Christ [to] dwell in [us] richly in all wisdom”—parallels Ephesians 5:18-19, where we are challenged to be under the control of the Holy Spirit. This results in worship, thanksgiving, and maintaining appropriate relationships with others.

Image Consultants

[You] have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. —Colossians 3:10

In our media-saturated age, image consultants have become indispensable. Entertainers, athletes, politicians, and business leaders seem desperate to manage the way they are perceived in the eyes of the world. These high-priced consultants work to shape how their clients are viewed—even if sometimes there is a stark contrast between the public image and the real person inside.

In reality, what people need—what all of us need—is not an external makeover but an inner transformation. Our deepest flaws cannot be corrected cosmetically. They are directly related to who we are in heart and mind, and they reveal how far we have fallen from the image of God in which we were created. But such transformation is beyond any human ability to accomplish.

Only Christ offers us true transformation—not just a facelift or an outward adjustment. Paul said that those who have been raised to eternal life in Christ “have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:10).

New! What a tremendous word full of hope! Christ transforms us into new people in Him—people with a new heart, not just fixed up to look good on the outside.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. —2 Corinthians 5:17
The Spirit develops in us the clear image of Christ.
INSIGHT: The letter to the Colossians is one of four epistles referred to as Paul’s “prison letters.” Written during his first imprisonment (or house arrest) in Rome, these letters also include Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. All of the letters were written to churches except for the one written to Philemon, who was apparently a dear friend of Paul (Philem. 1:1,7). Paul founded the Ephesian and Philippian churches, but there is no record in the New Testament that Paul was ever in Colosse.