Picture-In-Picture

The picture-in-picture feature on our televisions, computers and smartphones allow us to view more than one “channel” or “window” at a time. Typically, you have your main program running on the big screen and off in one of the corners you have another screen streaming something else. At times, the little window in the corner distracts us from what is happening in the big picture, and we miss what is happening.

This past week while I was reading Paul’s letter to Titus, I was distracted by some thoughts that pulled me away from the bigger picture of what Paul was trying to communicate. The first two verses of chapter 3, particularly the opening words captured my attention and preoccupied my mind for some time. Here are the words, 

“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)

Still fresh in the minds of many are the orders given to us by our governing authorities in response to the recent pandemic. Personally, I did my best to live within the confines of the instructions given. While there were many different opinions and choices made during that time, I felt convicted to live and act in a way that was honoring to the words of scripture and to those in authority. 

For a little while I was stuck in a spiral of questions and thoughts trying to understand how we as Christians should live, how “to be subject to” our modern-day rulers and authorities. 

My distractions and focus in one area of life temporarily blinded me from seeing the bigger picture of why I choose to live for Jesus, Paul had much more to say to me through these words.

These two verses (3:1-2) speak volumes into the life that we are live as Christians and ultimately why. Not only is obedience required along with a readiness to do good, but we are also to treat others in a way that builds them up not tear them down, to be peacemakers, to put others before ourselves and to have a gentle spirit toward those around us. 

Why the reminder? What then is the bigger picture? 

The lives we live (as believers) are to reflect who Jesus is so that others will see him through us. Our lives are to point people toward Jesus. We need the reminder because we do get distracted, and when that reflection becomes more about us or the world than it does about Jesus the focus in no longer on the big picture, which is the love of Jesus. The message of the Gospel is Christ’s love for us, communicated through our lives as we live according to God’s word. 

We were never promised that living for Jesus was going to be easy. Distractions, no matter what they are or how they come into our lives have the power to draw our attention away from living up to the words Paul speaks to Titus and you and me.

What is distracting you from experiencing the incredible love of Jesus today? When we live a life for Him, we become a part of the big picture, sharing, and showing the love that he has for all his people. Don’t be a distraction for others, be the picture of Jesus in how you live your life. 

You! Who, Me?

Have you ever had someone single you out in a crowd? It can be an uneasy feeling depending on the circumstance. Oftentimes, this pointed exclamation is followed with a message of accusation or blame. “You”, makes things personal; it narrows the audience of its subsequent words to a single intended subject, you! Whether through spoken or written word, the use of “you” should draw your attention to listen or read carefully as there is a message to follow.

The Apostle Paul uses an emphatic “you” in his letter to Titus that helps us to understand the importance and contrast between living for Jesus and living for the world. Titus chapter 2:1 reads “You, however…” or as some translations might say, “As for you Titus…” must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 

In the last several of verses in chapter 1 Paul talks about the “many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception… by teaching things they must not teach”. This contrast to what is true and faithful to the life of a believer outlines the charge Paul gives to Titus, “to teach what is appropriate” in life in faith. 

Titus was chosen by Paul to lead the charge in teaching or promoting the truth and transformational power of the gospel, to live a life that reflected the correct behaviours and attitudes that would be an inspiration and model for the leaders of the church and ultimately the church itself. 

Paul does not leave Titus empty handed in his given task. The words that follow help identify some of the foundational truths and heart and mind attitudes that will help people separate and protect themselves from the false teachings that were being taught. Speaking to a society distant from how the world defines culture today Paul’s words still stand as good practice in our lives today. 

The central themes of self-control, respect, reverence, love, purity, kindness, and integrity are part of the instruction given to the older men, older women, younger women, younger men, and slaves.  These actions are not just empty directives that only help us live better lives, each speak into a greater purpose and motivation. In the following verses Paul gives us the answer to the question why we should live this way, 

“so that no one will malign the word of God” (2:5); “so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (2:8); “so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” (2:10)

You might ask, how it is possible to live in a way that truly reflects God while the world around us becomes more resistant to recognizing who he is? Paul reminds us about the incredible grace and salvation God has given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. “It teaches us to say” NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled lives in this present age”. (2:12)

How are YOU, yes YOU, leading the charge to teach or promote the truth and transformational power of the Gospel in your life? My prayer for you, (something I pray for myself) is that you would continually experience the incredible grace of God in your life. “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. (Matthew 5:16)

On Purpose & for a Purpose

The product development team behind the design of the French’s Mustard bottle have done something very much on purpose and for a very specific purpose. You will notice a tiny yet noteworthy feature on the base of the lid, a seemingly insignificant dimple of plastic. This small yet useful feature is there to hold the hinged bottle tip back from messing up the stream of mustard as it is squeezed onto your food. (Go ahead, get up and check it for yourself, your mustard plying experience will never be the same). 

In my last post I shared some thoughts about the confidence Paul had in his role as a servant of God. This Spirit filled confidence gave him a purpose as he lived out God’s will for his life. In the opening words of his letter to Titus he highlights this purpose, 

“…to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness…” 

If you have been a part of a church, you will likely be familiar with its mission and vision statements. These short yet powerful statements give direction and purpose to the life of the church. With hope and trust in God, everything the church does is to help further the mission and vision laid out before them.

In these opening words to Titus Paul has stated for us his personal mission statement. A personal mission statement defines who you are as a person and identifies your purpose. It explains what you will do to pursue that purpose.

Paul is a man of action, his words “to further the faith of God’s elect”, give us a sense of movement or growth in our faith. The word “further” gives us a picture that he is extending something toward us, leading or guiding us forward down a particular path. That something is the “knowledge of the truth”. Simply stated, the knowledge and truth Paul describes here is hearing and understanding the message of the gospel in a personal and transformational way. 

Paul does not just stop there; he goes on to explain further the purpose of this action. The destination of that path Paul leads us down is a lifelong journey to godliness. If you read on in Paul’s letter to Titus, he begins to break down the appropriate behaviors and responsibilities of those who are involved in leading the church (to be an example for others). His words describe how a life transformed by the gospel should reflect the love of Jesus and his Father in heaven so that others will see him. 

Do you have a personal mission statement for your life? Does it challenge you to take action in your life and the lives of others? Is your mission Christ-centered? What is your goal, your destination in life? What have you learned from Paul’s words?

It is my hope and prayer that these questions and Paul’s words inspire you to think about your mission in life. Pray and ask God to help you know and understand his will for your life. Live life on purpose and for a purpose, let the truth of the gospel be the center of your life on mission with Jesus. 

A Particular kind of Confidence

Confidence in its various forms can be defined either as a feeling or belief that one can rely on something or someone. It can also be used to describe the feeling of certainty about the truth of something. Confidence in oneself can be described as a feeling of self-assurance coming from one’s appreciation of our own abilities or qualities. 

Today I began reading Paul’s letter to Titus and was reminded once again that God reveals himself and his truths to us in incredible ways. As I was reading the opening words, I was struck by the remarkable confidence Paul had in knowing who he was and his role (purpose) in advancing the message of the Gospel. Read his words as he opens the letter and “introduces” himself,  

“…a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior…”

Considering the depth of meaning attached to the word “servant” or “slave” as some translations write, Paul makes a very powerful statement. While our minds tend to think of this position through a negative lens, Paul helps us understand it differently. He is declaring in this letter that he belongs to the Lord, that his life and purpose are to serve the God who created him. Understanding who Jesus is and what he has done for him, Paul put all his trust in him. 

Paul’s words of introduction have made me stop and think about the confidence he had in his faith. Normally I equate Paul with his title of Apostle, one that gives him authority and responsibility in the mission that was entrusted to him. The roots of Paul’s work to advance the message of the gospel go so much deeper than any prescribed role. His life, his work, his passion for God reflects the incredible power of the Holy Spirit through the work of Christ in his life. 

Paul’s confidence, his knowledge and understanding in living for Jesus underscore the hope that he has in the promise of eternal life with his Father in heaven. The same promise given to you and me as we live our lives here and now. Paul’s life should be an inspiration for our lives. 

Can you or I claim to be a servant of God like Paul? Absolutely! We serve the same God as Paul and are afforded the same power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives when we place our hope in trust in the message of the Gospel, in our relationship with Jesus. 

For me, Paul’s actions speak louder than the words that he wrote. He lived a hard life as a follower of Jesus. Paul was entrusted with a mission, one that he took with him to the grave. The heart and soul of Paul’s life and writing continue to live on. The confidence he had in the message and reality of the Gospel will carry on for generations to come. 

Today, as I read the opening words of Paul’s letter to Titus, I am thankful for the reminder that we can have confidence in the promises of God. I am thankful for the power of the Gospel message. I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit I can have the same confidence as Paul to be on mission for Jesus Christ. This is my prayer for you as well.

Been There, Done That.

The phrase “been there, done that” is often used to express a person’s complete familiarity with a situation or event. Typically, when this statement is used, it is spoken with a suggestion of sarcasm or a sense of tiredness. For example, if you live on an island as I do, you might think or say “been there, done that” when you consider setting sail on the ferry for the umpteenth time.

A I continue to read Paul’s letter to Titus I came across a couple of verses in chapter three where Paul uses a variation of the statement “been there, done that”. After Paul instructs Titus to remind the people (the church) to be mindful of their attitudes and actions towards leaders in government, to be obedient to ready to serve and do what is good and gentle to everyone around them he says, “At one time”. 

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated, and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3) In other words, we have all “been there, done that”. 

There are a couple of important reminders for us in this verse and the verses that follow. First, Paul reminds us that we too once walked in the shoes and followed the pathway of worldly practices that kept us separated from God. This first reminder sets us up to recognize the sometimes-negative attitude of “better than” or “holier than thou” way we may act towards those who have not yet experienced the incredible love and grace Jesus has for them. The gentleness we are called to have for everyone in chapter 3:2 can become a little rough around the edges. 

The second reminder we have through these words is what follows in verse 4 of chapter 3. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” 

If there is anything we need to be reminded of daily it is the fact that as believers, we must never forget the means by which we are saved. When Paul speaks of the incredible mercy that came to us through the appearance of our Saviour, he is talking about the birth, the life, the death (sacrifice) and the resurrection of Jesus. 

The kindness and love that is Jesus Christ is available to everyone. His grace and mercy are poured out on each one of us as his followers every single day as we continue to live in a world that temps us and pulls us away from living in obedience and service in Christs name. 

As believers we have answered the call of Jesus to come and follow him. In a sense we have “been there, done that.” Think of this in a more positive light rather than the opening suggestion of sarcasm or tiredness. We have received the greatest gift ever and with that comes purpose, that is what Paul reminds us of here in these verses.

Jesus is kindness and love. Each one of us is created in his image, to reflect who he is so that others may know him. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we have been empowered to move beyond “been there, done that”, we were created to do more. Do you remember the moment you made the choice to follow Jesus? Think back to your “been there, done that” moment and use that experience to inspire others, share your story so that kindness and love (Christ) shines through you.

Sound Advice

How many of these familiar sayings have you heard before? “They returned safe and sound”, or “their business has been built on a sound foundation” or “he/she is sound asleep”. Maybe you have heard something like, “that person likes to sound off their opinions” or “you have a sound understanding on the subject”.  In life, we all benefit from getting sound advice on buying the right investments, vehicles, homes, and making other significant decisions. 

When life and faith come together there is much sound advice that we find in scripture. In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul talks about sound doctrine, and being sound in our faith.

The word translated as “sound” in verses one and two of chapter 2 in this letter define a sense of “healthiness”, to be healthy or to be correct. Paul’s instruction or command to Titus was this, “You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.” In other words, teach what is healthy and beneficial for those who hear your words. Paul, in an earlier letter to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:11) connects sound doctrine to the incredible truths laid out in the message of the gospel. 

The truth of the Gospel message is the foundation on which every Christ follower must find their feet firmly planted. Paul’s letter to Titus was written to encourage and instruct not just himself but the church of believers. This was a reminder for everyone to live by example, to live differently from the false teachers and the un-believing community they were a part of.  The sound advice given to Titus and the Christian churches in Crete was so much more than just knowledge and understanding of sound doctrine but living it out in their daily lives. 

To be sound in our faith implies that we as Christians understand and live according to the will of God. The promise of the gospel message for all of us is that we will one day be in the presence of our heavenly Father. By the grace of God our salvation is secured for us through the death and resurrection of his son Jesus Christ. 

Skillfully written into this letter given to Titus are references to more than a dozen teachings (doctrines) that help guide us in navigating life and faith in a culture that is seemingly counter-Christian. In many ways when we read the words of these letters to Titus and Timothy, we find ourselves facing much the same cultural influences that continue to distract people from the truths found in God’s word. 

The worldly distractions around us have the potential to deafen our hearts and minds from following this sound advice of living a healthy and productive life for Christ. So, what can we do to protect ourselves? 

First, embrace the truth of the gospel; through Christ’s death and resurrection and by the grace of God we have been brought into his family. 

Second, Pray & read. You and I do not have the power or the strength alone to live as fully devoted followers of Jesus on our own. Through prayer and scripture, we will grow into knowing the Lords will for our lives. 

Third, Live boldly for Jesus. Every day, live a life that sets you apart from the world. Be sound in your faith. 

Wise Investing

In today’s world there are many strategies and options for investing in your future. You can pick from stocks, bonds, mutual funds, bank products, options, annuities, ETFs and more. Within my limited knowledge of investing, I know a little bit about dividend reinvestment plans. They allow the investor to reinvest cash dividends into additional shares of the “parent” stock when dividends are paid out. 

Recently as I was working through a portion of scripture, I was reminded that there is another type of investing that reaches far beyond our desire for “physical” or material gain. While the responsible use of what God provides for us is important, our real investment portfolio should be filled with strategies and options to help equip others with the truth of the Gospel message. 

The book of Titus is a short yet carefully penned letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus as he prepared to minister and lead the people as the church in Crete. There is a real connection between believing in what is right and acting in a manner that shows others what it means to live in the light of truth and godliness. 

Chapter 2 of Titus lays out a different type of reinvestment plan that guides us through a proven strategy for investing in the lives of others, one that makes a lasting impact. 

Paul instructs Titus in chapter 2:2-3 to “Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way that they live, not be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.”

Paul’s strategy begins by making an investment of time and energy into teaching “older” men and women to live in a way that first honors God and second sets a good example of living right for those who follow. This first, or initial investment into the lives of the older generation becomes the initial point of re-investment for future generations. 

Paul continues to give instruction in the following verses using terms like, “urge the younger women” and “encourage the young men”. What he does here for the older men and women is this: he sets up the terms of re-investment into the lives of the younger generation. Their learning and growing in temperament, respect, self-control, sound faith, love, endurance, reverence are the dividends that pay forward into the lives of the younger men and women. 

Paul reminds us in verse eleven of chapter two that by the grace of God, salvation is for everyone. While we may live in a different time and space culturally from Paul’s original audience, the truths that these words speak should continue to be a guide to investing into the lives of our younger generations. 

Held in-between these words of instruction to Titus and to us is a message of living out our faith in a way that inspires others. How does your life inspire others? Will people see Jesus in your life through your actions and not just your words? As we live and lead by example it is my hope and prayer that we are all investing into the lives of those who will one day fill our shoes and follow in our footsteps. 

When No is Yes

yesnotarotOne of the first words that comes from the mouths of babes can be singled out as one of the most powerful two letter words in the English language. It translates easily from one language to another, it is a word that is recognized across most every culture and anyone can use a simple hand gesture to get its message across. Printed on a ballot, this word has the ability change the most powerful leadership regime, this seemingly small word has the potential to change the direction of one’s life.

The word is NO.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:12). When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit into our lives, as we say “yes” to living a life in Jesus name we say no in a big way to the passions of the world. Titus was left in a bit of a pickle as he worked to build a church in a place where it was not easy to break ground and grow followers of Christ. Paul gives Titus practical advice on how to appoint elders who love what is good, men who love the lord and do good (say no) for the sake of the Gospel. Paul then takes it a few steps further, he instructs Titus to teach every generation (older men, older women, young men, young women) to live in unity with each other, to live lives of integrity. When we say no to the sinful acts that separate us from God and give over the passions of the world to Him we live according to His will, we bring honour and glory to him.

As a believer called by God we have a responsibility as Paul says, to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, reverent, to teach what is good, to be kind and to be an example to each other. For lack of a better word, our “function” as a called people is to resist temptation and say no to the evil and darkness of the world. It is through the kindness and love of God that we are saved, not because of what we have done, but because of his loving grace and mercy. The power of the word NO in this context is saying yes to being upright and godly, it is saying yes to living a life that is self-controlled and honouring to God. The present time that we live in offers so many “evils”, our culture almost demands compliance and can be difficult to navigate. Through our faith in Jesus, we can put our trust in Him to see us through these present times.

Living a Godly Life.

titus_bw1280x720Thankful for the time I could spend working through the topic of humility I will be switching my focus to understanding how different cultures influenced how the gospel message was presented through the books of Titus, Judges, 1 Timothy and the Minor Prophets.

Imagine yourself in this scenario: your in a new church plant with fresh new leaders and you are left to your own devices along with a letter of instruction on an island with nowhere else to go. Titus was in a position that many of us as leaders would fear and maybe only a few of us that would thrive. We are introduced to the people of Crete in Titus 1:12, a culture of communities known as “liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons.” Titus, a friend of Paul and a disciple of Christ is called to help build and structure the leadership of the church. This letter from Paul to Titus involves instructions on how to work in a culture where false teachers were infiltrating the churches, teachers whose intentions were self focused rather than God focused. This pastoral letter of instruction is still as relevant to church leaders today as it was when Titus first received it.

We, like Titus are called to live a Godly life in a culture that pushes hard to promote self-reliance and “easy living”. Our life must reflect an attitude of saying “No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright and godly lives”. (Titus 2:12) I have to wonder what it must have been like for Titus to receive this letter from Paul in that day. I read this same letter today as it is in the bible and I think how the culture of today is filled with the same “liars, evil brutes and lazy gluttons”. The amazing thing about this is that I/we have the same promise of kindness and love of an unchanging God as Titus did. Paul uses some strong words (corrupt, detestable, disobedient) to describe a culture that opposes the way of truth and love. This letter is a reminder for me to be praying for the people in our communities, praying for opportunities to influence a culture that is far from God, opportunities that will draw them closer to knowing a loving heavenly father.