Manliness (A Study in Titus), Manuary 2015

Manuary 2015

Manuary 1, (01 Jan. 2015

Welcome

Welcome to the third annual Manuary. A daily look at what it means to be a man and the values that make a good man. Of course these aren’t values or morals I made up. They’re of a higher nature than that. This year we’re going to be taking a close look at the book of Titus in the Bible. It’s a short letter from the Apostle Paul to a man named Titus. As with all of Paul’s letters, there is wisdom we can all use in it. This is Manuary and as such, these messages every weekday are intended especially for men, but women are more than welcome to participate, because values cut across gender boundaries. And for you women who are looking to understand men better, or are looking to be able to better identify a good man to include in your life this may be some help too. In any case, I hope you enjoy this month of Manuary, 2015. I’m looking forward to learning and being inspired with you.

Manuary 2, (02 Jan. 2015)

Put it in Order

Pinch yourself. That’s right, you’re not dreaming. And guess what? This is the real world. That means you have a purpose. “What purpose?” you may be asking. I don’t know, we all have a different purpose in life. But I know we all have a purpose. God created us for it. Somewhere along the way, we get to say yes or no to God. Don’t ask me how it all works, I don’t know. And the more people claim they know how it all works, the less I trust that they know how it all works. But this is what the Bible says, Paul left Titus in Crete for a reason. He states it clearly in chapter one verse five. He says, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—“ Now obviously you don’t have the same purpose as Titus. But that doesn’t negate the fact that we all have purpose. Your purpose may not be to put a church together, or appoint order among elders. But you are called for something. Put it in order. If it’s just your life, your family, or your workplace. Get it together man. As part of that process, I want to challenge us all to read this book of Titus every day this month. It’s short, probably will only take you about 10, maybe 15 minutes a day. Trust me though, you’ll learn more than you think. And it will help put order in your life. God’s Word always does that.

Manuary 5, 2014

Above Reproach (Titus 1:7)

Titus 1:7 starts by saying, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach.” What in the world does it mean to “be above reproach?” And what does it mean to be “God’s steward?” The New Oxford American Dictionary defines reproach as to, “Address (someone) in such a way as to express disapproval or disappointment.” And it says a steward is, “a person whose responsibility it is to take care of something.” Okay, so we all knew that already. But sometimes it is easier to understand the Bible when we take the words, even the words we know, and use vocabulary we use regularly. In Titus 1:7, Paul tells Titus basically, “Someone caring for God’s people must not be disappointing in the way they act.” Paul continues to define what he means as his letter to Titus continues, and you can read it for yourself. But I think we all know what he’s talking about. We know when we’re doing something we could be chewed out for. We know what it means to be a disappointment. But are we off the hook? After all, Paul is talking about elders here isn’t he? But let’s go back to the definition of stewart. Are we responsible for taking care of people? We all are. So that puts us back on the hook doesn’t it. What we will see over and over again in Titus, and throughout the Bible, is that we should live with integrity. And to me, there isn’t anything more manly than living with integrity. We’ve all heard the phrase, “He’s a man of his word.” There’s something inherently manly about that. It’s respectable, it’s responsible, it’s something we want to strive for. And it means that a man’s word should have integrity. A man should do the right thing, be honest, care, even when no one will see or notice. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the TV show, “The Office,” but in one of the episodes Dwight talks about his philosophy on making decisions. In this philosophy of his, he asks himself, “If I do this, will Michael tell me I’m an idiot.” If the answer is yes, he doesn’t do it. I’m not trying to say anyone is in idiot, or that Dwight’s philosophy is above reproach, but we could all use a look at our life and actions from someone else’s perspective sometimes. Because sometimes it’s from other’s perspectives that we can best judge ourselves. There’s a saying I’ve heard, “We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.” How are others judging our lives? Whatever we’re doing in life, whatever we want to accomplish, let’s do it above reproach. I know we’ve all messed up before. And we’ll all screw it up again. And for that let’s thank Jesus for salvation through His forgiveness. And let’s let Christ’s forgiveness motivate us to live above reproach.

Manuary 6, 2015 (06 Jan. 2015)

Remember What is Trustworthy (Titus 1:9)

Every man, everyone wants to be trusted. Everyone wants people to take what they say seriously. But if we want to be taken seriously, we must be serious in our convictions, in our beliefs, and in our morals. Who is going to take a man seriously who believes unicorns live on the other side of the moon. Or who is going to take the man seriously who acts like it’s okay to abuse their family. No one. What do you believe? Is it sound? Is it good? Could it make this world a better place? And does it align with what God says is good? There are many things we grow up to believe. As we get older and learn more about the world and the way things work, we discontinue some of those beliefs and at the same time develop others. One of the reasons I challenged us to read Titus every day this month is so that we get used to being in God’s Word more and learn to know it better. Paul doesn’t say much about what we should believe in this letter to Titus, but what he does say can affect every aspect of our lives. Speaking of candidates for church leaders he says, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” – Titus 1:9 How often do we sway from our beliefs? It’s easy to believe what is right, then fail to continue that belief all the way into our actions. It’s like the wide receiver who sees the ball thrown to him from the quarterback, sets himself up to catch it, and then takes his eyes off the ball. What happens. He’ll drop it nine times out of 10. In order to receive the ball, a receiver must watch it into his hands. He can’t let anything distract him from the ball going into his hands. It’s the same with our belief in God’s Word. We can’t let anything distract us from living it out. And just like every wide receiver has an opponent trying to disrupt the pass, we all have opponents trying to stop us from doing what’s right. But we must hold on. We must continue. We must remain steadfast in God’s Word. How do we do that? By letting God affect us. By looking to the Cross. By trusting in Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings os closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who of the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the same, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” It’s a race, let’s run it. It’s a contest, let’s win it. It’s God’s Word, let’s trust it.

Manuary 7, 2015 (07 Jan. 2015)

Stand Up for What is Right (Titus 1:9)

There comes a time when a man needs to be a man. When a man needs to do the right thing and stand up for what is right. It’s not enough to know what is right, know is simply the basis for doing. Why do we read and trust the Bible? Why are we attentive to God’s Word and wishes? Not just so that we know Him, so that we act out those things too. But it’s hard. It’s not easy to stand up for what is right when everyone around us is calling for a stand down. Titus 1:9 doesn’t just say a leader must, “Hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught.” It gives a reason to hold firm. It continues, “So that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it.” Unfortunately, doing that will often give us the “judgmental” label. The Bible is clear, we aren’t judges. But it’s also clear, we are to stand up for and teach what is right. We are to have good judgment. But how do we do that? By being in touch with God. By talking with Him in prayer. By paying attention to His Word that He gave us. By allowing His grace to save us. If we skip ahead to Titus 2:11 we’ll see something amazing about God’s grace.  Paul says to Titus, “For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people.” That’s what we all know. Grace brings salvation right. But Paul continues his statement on grace this way. He says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, TRAINING US TO RENOUNCE UNGODLINESS AND WORLDLY POSSESSIONS, AND TO LIVE SELF-CONTROLLED, UPRIGHT, AND GODLY LIVES IN THE PRESENT AGE.” None of the stuff we’re going to talk about this month starts with us. Putting our lives in order, living above reproach, remembering what is trustworthy, standing up for what is right; none of them start with us. They start with God. His grace does so much more than we think about from day to day. Books upon books could be and have been written about the methodology of doing what is right. But Paul tells us the source in one sentence. God’s grace. It’s not just for saving us from our sins, it’s for guiding us too. So often we struggle with what is right. And can’t and won’t always get it right. On our own we pretty much stink. Let’s look to the source for strength. Psalm 121 starts this way, “I lift my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made all heaven and earth.” Stand up for what is right. But get help first.

Manuary 8, 2015 (08 Jan. 2015)

Teach the Good Stuff (Titus 2:1)

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound (or healthy) doctrine.” – Titus 2:1 Do we do that? When we’re asked for advice, do we give a healthy reply. When I was younger I, and many of the people I knew were more into having fun than anything else. I’m sure you’ve experienced it. Maybe you’ve even given it. I’m talking about bad advice that is meant just to keep the fun rolling. “Have another drink, we’re just starting to have fun.” “Yes!, I do think you should try to jump that on your motorcycle.” “Who cares about tomorrow, live for tonight.” The bad advice goes on and on. And we all know when we’re giving bad advice. But too often it doesn’t matter. Because life is for living right. And living is supposed to be fun right. Live for the moment they say. YOLO! But that’s not what how a man should act. The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23 NIV Where is our heart when we’re teaching others to hurt themselves? Where’s our heart when we don’t care for life; either our’s or another’s. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with al your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39 ESV Let’s love each other. Let’s love each other. Can we love each other? I know sometimes it’s hard. There are people we really want to hate. In moments like that, with people like them, there is a key. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because He (God) first loved us.” So if you aren’t feeling the love. Let God love you first. Look for His love all around you. See it in the trees and the grass. See it in the clouds and the air. It’s in the forest and the marshes. It’s present at home too. God created this world with love. His love permeates everything He made. When we choose to see and experience it, it will change our lives. No longer is life all about the moment. It becomes all about love. And when life is all about love, we want to teach the good stuff. Let’s teach the good stuff.

Manuary 09, 2015 (09 Jan. 2015)

Are You Serious? (Titus 2:2)

Titus 2:2 starts out with Paul saying, “Older men are to be sober minded.” In case you’re wondering what that means exactly, the New Oxford Dictionary defines being sober as being “serious, sensible, and solemn.” Paul was looking for men who were serious about their faith. Not men who were fake in front of the right crowd. Not men who knew what to say and when. Not men who played faith like a game, able to shut it off when it became convenient. Too often our so called “faith” is simply a “team” we join. Or maybe we were raised a certain way, so we simply stay that way; the reason remaining somewhat unknown. There are all kinds of reasons and ways we are Christians. Not all of them good or genuine. My question is this. Would you be someone Paul was looking for? Following Christ is not just something to do on the weekends. It’s not just a name to give yourself. It’s not just a code of conduct. When Jesus is your Lord and Savior He becomes a part of you. Following Him becomes who you are, not what you do. In Titus 1:15-16 Paul makes the statement, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, BUT THEY DENY HIM BY THEIR WORKS.” I wonder if some of us deny God with our “GOOD WORKS” too. To believe that we are saved because of how we’re living and what we do is to deny Christ too. Because Christ died for our sins. He didn’t die for us because we are sinless, but because we our sinful. Which means we are full of sin. Every one of us. Yes, there are things we should and need to avoid. Followers of Christ will live differently. But it’s not because of ourselves. It’s because we chose to follow Christ. You don’t respect the people you love because it’s what’s expected of you. You respect them and act differently towards them because you love them. Is it that way with our faith? Are we serious? Or is this just an act. Let’s get serious and let Christ seriously do a work in our lives. Let’s be someone Paul sent Titus to find.

Manuary 12, 2015 (12 Jan. 2015)

Dignity Counts Too (Titus 2:2)

“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” – Titus 2:2 To be dignified means, “having or showing a composed or serious manner that is worthy of respect,” according to the New Oxford American Dictionary. That means, we don’t flip out. How often do we do that? That means that we don’t let anger keep us from doing the right thing. How often do we do that? That means we stay cool under pressure. How often do we do that? For many of us men, there is an underlying beast just waiting to come out. Many of us let stress build and build until we can’t hold the results in anymore. On the other hand, many of us like to “let off steam” on a regular basis. And sometimes, what we do to let off steam isn’t worthy of very much respect. So what are we supposed to do? Are some people just born to be dignified, while other’s aren’t? The answer, as it so often does, lies in our heart. I’ve already quoted it, but Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” So how do we keep our heart in good shape? How do we keep it guarded? Proverbs 4 continues with some good advice. It says, “Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:24-27 What we do, what we say, what we intend; they all are significant in the condition of our heart. When we slander a co-worker, we build animosity for them in our hearts. When we purposefully disregard legitimate instructions, we develop a disdain for instructions in our hearts. When we act like a uncontrolled man, we foster an out of control heart. When our hearts carry in them disdain, animosity, and lack of control it’s no wonder we struggle to find dignity in our lives. But that’s not to say it won’t be a struggle. Even if we do all the right things it will be a struggle to maintain dignity. But there is so much help in God. Jesus came to save, not to accuse. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 Finding dignity means continually looking to Jesus.

Manuary 13, 2015 (13 Jan. 2015)

Have Faith (Titus 2:2)

Faith can often be confused with weakness in a man’s mind. Why have faith when we can trust what we know? So we search for things we can know. Two plus two equals four. We can know that. Ford makes the best trucks. We can know that. Or Chevy, or Ram, or Toyota, or Nissan. Anyway… I think you get my point. There are things we can count on in life. Things we can add up and trust are true. Then there are things we are completely wrong about. Truths we hold dear because we want to believe them. It feels good to “know” we’re driving the best car a guy can buy for the money we spent. But often the things we “know” and count on are false. On top of that, there is so much we don’t understand; whether we’d like to believe it or not. Where does faith fit in? I see bumper stickers every once in a while that make a statement like, “Real men pray.” And as a man who prays, I’m offended. What about prayer gives a man the right to claim “real” manhood? I don’t know. And is faith a key to being a “real” man? I don’t know. I don’t even know how we define what or who a real man is. Here’s what I do know however. Faith doesn’t lessen a man’s ability to be a “real man.” Faith has never made a person weak. Faith is a strength. And I’m not talking about blind faith, but a faith that gives sight. I’m talking about the faith that is given, not pursued or pridefully held onto. Sometimes faith itself is false. Sometimes we have a so called “faith” that isn’t faith at all, but merely a way to fit in with the club. That’s not the faith I’m talking about. The faith I’m talking about doesn’t produce pride or bumper stickers. It’s not the ticket into any sort of event. Rather it’s the result of what someone else did. It’s the result of Jesus. It’s the result and the gift of God. Get that, faith is the result of something first, not the other way around. Faith doesn’t lead us to Jesus, Jesus leads us to faith. The Bible says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1 What is faith? It’s assurance, not just trust. It’s conviction, not just belief. So if today you need some hope. If today you need assurance. If today you need to feel a little more steady on your feet. If you need confidence. Look to Jesus. Let Him build a faith in you. It’s nothing you can do on your own. It’s the result of a gift from God. As men we want to conquer, to take, and to keep. Faith isn’t like that. It’s a gift we must accept. And there’s something humbling about that. But also better. Can we humble ourselves today enough to receive a gift that can give us strength? I pray we can.

Manuary 14, 2015 (15 Jan. 2015)

Love People (Titus 2:2)

Let’s make an effort to love people we aren’t supposed to love. I don’t mean that in a perverse way, but in an unusual way. It’s easy most of the time to love the people we’re expected to love, but what about the ones we aren’t? We love our parents, our wives, and our children, but what about terrorists? Is that okay to say? Is it okay to love a terrorist? Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” – Matthew 5:43-44a Do you know what happens when you love your enemies and pray for them. They don’t discontinue to be adversaries necessarily, but something about your heart changes towards them. I challenge you, think of someone you can’t stand, maybe even hate, now pray for them. Honestly and sincerely pray for them. Pray that they find happiness and joy. Pray that the have the love of Jesus in their hearts. Pray for their families too. See if anything changes in your heart. They may remain an adversary, but somehow there is hope. Hope that one day adversaries will no longer exist. Hope that one day peace will prevail. And hope that hatred will be abolished. We can love the terrorists and have hope for them too. Not hope that they will succeed, but hope that Jesus will succeed for them too. We should fight with everything we have for what is right, but if we’re fighting without love, what really are we fighting for? “Love your enemies.” – Jesus

Manuary 15, 2015 (15 Jan. 2015)

Be Steadfast (Titus 2:2)

“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” – Titus 2:2 It’s day number five still in Titus 2:2. But that’s how the Bible is. It’s full of wisdom and instructions. And I hope you’ve been able to at least somewhat keep up with my challenge of reading Titus everyday this month. It’s surprising how much can be mined from a short passage of the Bible. That’s why it’s so important to be steadfast. Because there is so much change and learning that can take place after we think we’ve exhausted all options, knowledge, and learning. But we all know we fail. We fail at obedience, at love, at dignity, and in faith among all sorts of other things. Our steadfastness isn’t one of perfection. All is not lost in our failure. We don’t start all the way back at the beginning after we fail. No, our steadfastness is the “getting back on the horse” type. It’s what we use to pick ourselves up off the floor, pull on our boots by their straps and keep going. And by picking ourselves up off the floor I mean staying close and in relationship with God. Because it’s in a closeness and relationship with Him that we find our purpose. That we are given a strength that is greater than we can muster on our own. With Him purpose comes alive. But it will take a steadfastness of character. A stubborn attitude of will. A desire. It’s called being steadfast. If nothing else is or has worked in your life, be steadfast to Him. In sight of armies greater than theirs, in view of dangers unknown, in the process of becoming greater, the Israelites had to be reminded of what God is like. And so before they crossed over the Jordan from the desert to their promised land, Moses left them with these words. “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6 That verse, while spoken in person to the children of Israel is also spoken to you and me. “Be strong and courageous.” “For it is the LORD your God who goes with you.” And He still goes with us. There’s another 316 that I’m reminded of. “For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 He’s still going with us! He’s still with us! He will never leave us or forsake us. He is steadfast to us. Can we be steadfast to Him? There is greater things waiting for us when we choose to go with Him. Even though we may be fearful. I’m praying for you.

Manuary 16, 2015 (16 Jan. 2015)

Control Yourself (Titus 2:2-6)

Other versions use the word temperate instead of self-controlled in this passage. And I think it would be valuable to explore what it means to be temperate. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as “showing moderation or self-restraint.” Do we do that? Or are there things in our lives we let go? Are there days of the week we let go of our temperance? Maybe a Friday night after work? Or are there things we justify in our own minds and then let get out of control? Maybe it’s religion for some of us? We are not alone. Hebrews 12:1 says, “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,” That requires control. It requires self-control to not run down the rabbit trails of life. It takes control to refuse to chase the shinny things in life that lead to nothing. When salmon run up the rivers to spawn they’re often most easily caught by a gleaming distraction. They strike at the shinny things along their path, unaware of the hooks attached to those distractions. Let’s run this life like a salmon running up the rivers and tributaries, undeterred by the falls and the rapids. But let’s learn the lesson of the hook too. Let’s be aware of the dangers of the hook. Let’s remain undeterred by those too. Satan has set his hooks out for us. They’re of the barbed variety, they don’t like to let go, and they’re difficult to escape. Fortunately there’s another fisher out there too. Christ promised His disciples that He would make them fishers of men. He’s not out to capture us, but to rescue. We need rescue. We need a steady course. That’s why you’ll notice Hebrews 12:1 doesn’t end in a period but with a comma. It ends with a comma because there’s more coming. There’s a method to running with endurance. There’s a method to remaining steadfast and in control. The method is to look towards a goal. Hebrews 12:2 tells us how to run with endurance the race that is set before us, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Our self-control starts with Him. Let’s start with Him.

Manuary 19, 2015 (19 Jan. 2015)

The Champion In You (Titus 2:7)

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works…” – Titus 2:7a Wow, this is tough! I know that so often I don’t do this. There are so many times when I am the furthest thing from a model of good works. At best I’m a model of good works sometimes and awful ones a second later. It’s a good thing we’re not saved because of what we do. It’s a good thing God forgives us for our failures. It’s a good thing Jesus inspires good works instead of requiring them as a prerequisite. But we’re still left with the text, with the instruction; “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works.” So how do we do that knowing that we will also fail? Why would the Bible include instructions we can’t follow? As with everything, perspective helps. And I could say that, in perspective, Paul is talking directly to Titus, who is supposed to be the leader of Christianity on the Island of Crete. Titus was supposed to be the top guy, he had to set an example for everyone. Through the lens of that perspective I could suggest that few of us have the role of Titus. But that doesn’t seem to help does it? Trying to let ourselves off the hook doesn’t quite do the job. Surely we can be models of good works too. And here’s the good news. Here comes Jesus. Paul isn’t asking for perfection. He’s asking for effort. If Titus was perfect Paul wouldn’t have to say anything about being good. But since Paul includes it, we know that Titus wasn’t perfect either. So we know that Titus had to struggle as well. Some of our best works come in the form of prayer, in the form of repentance for the things we’ve done, in the form of asking for help to become better. No, we’ll never be perfect by ourselves, but we can be perfected through Christ. Our works won’t always be good, but we can always try. Yesterday the Seahawks won the 2015 NFC Championship game; not because they played particularly well, in fact, their performance was particularly bad. They won because they didn’t give up. To the last man, to the last minute, to the last play, they were trying to play their best. And at the end of the game, their best performance wasn’t found in a particular play, but in their attitude. They played like they wanted to be champions, not like they were already champions. And that’s how we should live. We won’t be perfect and good in every act. But we can never give up, we can never give in. So often it’s in the comeback that the best in us shines through, because Jesus is all about the comeback. It’s in the comeback that He so often shines through a life. His is the greatest comeback. The comeback from death to life. Being a model of good works isn’t about being perfect. It’s about Jesus first. Through Him we’ll do better than we could ever do on our own. And through Him there’s a path of comeback readily available to any who would follow it. Let’s follow that path. Let’s follow that leader. And let’s start a comeback with Jesus. With Him the pressure is off because He doesn’t discriminate, He motivates. Be good brother. There’s a champion in you.

Manuary 20, 2015 (20 Jan. 2015)

Integrity First (Titus 2:7)

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity…” – Titus 2:7a-b Integrity… Just what exactly is it? The fundamental definition we most often hear is, “Integrity means doing the right thing, even when nobody will know.” And that’s a good definition. It’s what I go by. It’s what I try to remind myself of as much as I can. But is there more to it? Can we find more meaning to it than that? After all, Paul is talking about teaching here, he’s not just talking about our actions. And how do you show integrity in teaching? Maybe it would be useful to think about a building. When we talk about a building having integrity we mean that it is fundamentally good. The joints are strong. The materials are of a good quality. The construction is correct and so on. All of the aspects of the building work together to form a structure that is trustworthy. And so my question is this. If we were buildings would people refer to us as being the type with integrity? Are all the aspects of a man’s life working together to form a trustworthy structure? If the answer is no, how do we get there? And if the answer is yes, how do we know? Jesus taught a little about this. In Matthew 7:24-27 we read. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” It’s simple in the end. Want to be a man of integrity? Listen to Jesus. Want to teach with integrity. Follow Jesus.

Manuary 21, 2015 (21 Jan. 2015)

Give em Something to Talk About (Titus 2:7-8)

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” – Titus 2:7-8 What do you think people are saying behind your back? I guess sometimes it’s better not to think about it and to just hope for the best. But what would people say if they had to describe us? How would they explain our actions? How would they describe our character? Would people have a genuine reason to say something bad about us? And would those things override the good we try to accomplish in life? How we can be described makes a big difference in what we can do. People need to be able to trust us in order to be able to welcome us into their lives. What we do can either gain or diminish trust. How much influence can we have when there’s a big pile of dirt just waiting for someone to throw on us? And where does the majority of that dirt come from? It comes from us. We manufacture it with what we do. So let’s give people something to talk about. Let’s be men people have something to say about. Let’s do something good. In everything we do, let’s strive to do good. We can effect change in our lives and those around us. Let’s do it. Not for ourselves only, but for others first. That’s what Jesus did. And people have been talking about Him for over 2000 years now. And no one can say anything bad about Him. While we’ll never be just like Jesus, we can emulate Him, we can love Him, and we can strive for Him to be what people talk about when they talk about us. Let’s give them something to talk about. Let’s give Jesus.

Manuary 22, 2015 (22 Jan. 2015)

Don’t Argue with Me (Titus 2:9)

“Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” – Titus 2:9-10 I’m gonna be honest, this is hard to talk about. In this passage Paul is telling slaves to be obedient to their masters. When I as an American hear that, I automatically imagine a plantation and whip. Because that’s my view of what slavery is. I recoil when I imagine an apostle instructing a slave in the cotton fields to submit. But let’s go back a little bit and look at this in a truer perspective. This was not the slavery of America. It wasn’t quite the same, so let’s not think of it as the same. And let’s not forget, Paul is thinking bigger picture than our lives. He’s thinking eternal. And let’s not get distracted by the word bondservant. If you’re thinking this passage only applies to the servants on Crete you’d be mistaken. It’s an instruction for all of us. We’re all slaves. We all have to work for somebody in order to get paid. And guess what. While we’re at work, we’re representing our faith there too. What would you think of someone of a different faith who refused to work hard because of that faith? Guess what, that’s the perspective of many who work with Christians. Christ didn’t call His followers to be lazy. He didn’t say that “only Bible study matters.” No, everything we do matters. As a father, I don’t want my daughter to grow up and be a poor employee because she loves me so much. That doesn’t even make sense. But we as Christians often do that. We claim that Christ is what matters most and forget about everything else. And we’re right, Christ does matter most, but that’s not an excuse or reason to forget about everything else. What we do matters, no matter where we’re at, or what we’re doing. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” And remember, as Christians we’re supposed to be proud bondservants of Christ. We’re all servants, so let’s be good servants. Let’s represent our faith like it’s something to be proud of.

Manuary 23, 2015 (23 Jan. 2015

Be godly (Titus 2:11-12)

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…” – Titus 2:11-12 What does it mean to be godly? Does it mean that we’re regulars at church? Or that we talk about Jesus all the time? Or that we do what is right in every situation? I guess it could look like that at times. But do those things really make us godly. The New Oxford American Dictionary says godliness is about being, “devoutly religious; pious.” What? What if you’re not a religious person? What if you’ve seen behind the scenes of your local church and weren’t very impressed? What if you know some “religious” people you wouldn’t let your kids be alone with? Is godliness all about a show? Is it all about what we do? Not at all! Paul was not about a show. God is not about a show. God is about the heart. Godliness starts in the heart. And like I said on Manuary 8, it doesn’t start with us. God’s grace provides godliness. It’s effect on our hearts is a change in our hearts. When we accept Christ and the grace He provides something changes in us. No longer are we just about the world. No longer are we just about the works either. We are about God’s love for us and for others. So what does it mean to be godly? It simply means to let God have an affect on you. He can change anything, and that includes us, when we let Him. Look at king David. God called him a man after His own heart. Even though David had committed adultery and murder. Why? Because David was a godly man. Listen to this prayer of David’s after he was caught and reprimanded by Nathan the prophet for having an affair with Bathsheba and then having her husband killed because she became pregnant. He said to God, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:7-12 Man, that’s a godly prayer. No matter what you’ve done. No matter who you think you are. No matter what others think of you. You can be a godly man. But it isn’t anything you can do, it’s about what God will do. Being godly… It’s about letting God be in your life. Let God be in your life. Be godly.

Manuary 26, 2015 (26 Jan. 2015)

Be Passionate (Titus 2:11-14)

“For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.” – Titus 2:11-14 What does it mean to be passionate about something? It’s pretty simple really. I think we all know the answer. But do we? If we had to answer the question, “What does it mean to be passionate about something?” I think we’d all answer pretty much the same way. That is to care deeply about something. To get to know whatever that is. To forsake other things in order to focus on that one thing. And that’s mostly right. But it’s not totally correct. So what are we missing from our standard definition of passion? The New Oxford American Dictionary describes it as, “a strong and barely controllable emotion.” What can’t we control our emotions over? As men we love a lot of things. We love our cars. We love football. We love a Sunday in the recliner. But what are we passionate about? I’m afraid many of us aren’t passionate about much. And in some ways that’s good. We just finished reading that “The grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions…” But still, we need passion for something. We need to really care about something. Something more important than ourselves and our enjoyment. What about your wife? What about your child? What about your family? Your faith? Your God? Jesus? It’s easy to get caught up in the things of this world. I could turn the TV on right now and find something to be enthralled with. That’s what TV is designed to do. But what about the things that matter most. Are we enthralled with those things? Are we exuberant for the things that really matter? Nobody will notice or remember if you don’t watch the Super Bowl this year. It’s probable that nobody will care if you don’t make it to a Blazers game. But your little girl… She’ll remember your passion for her. Your family will care that you are there for them and their needs. And God knows your heart. He knows exactly what makes you overflow with emotion. Be passionate man. Be passionate for the things that will make a difference. Love with your whole heart. Love the people you’ve promised to love forever. Love those who you’ve never seen. Let God love you. Appreciate His passion for you and feel that passion flow out of your life. There’s a reason Christ’s death is called The Passion. It’s called The Passion because He’s passionate for you. What are you passionate for?

Manuary 27, 2015 (27 Jan. 2015)

Obey the Law (Titus 3:1)

Towards the end of his letter, Paul gives Titus an interesting instruction. He says, “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work…” – Titus 3:1 But what about when our rulers and authorities get it wrong? Welcome to the Christian conundrum. What do we do with people like Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, or any other despot. Should’ve the Christian men in Europe obeyed the Nazi’s order to help round up all the Jews? These are hard questions when we view them in black and white. But Paul isn’t writing in black and white. And guess what? He’s not writing in gray either. He’s writing in color! So often we want to live in black and white. Something is either right or wrong. And that’s true. The hard part is knowing what’s right and wrong. So we call those areas we can’t define… gray. But here’s the thing about gray, it’s just a stop on the black and white scale. There’s more to life than monochromatism. There’s color too. Jesus adds color to our black and white. It comes in the form of grace. Notice that God’s promise to never destroy the world with a flood again came with the vivd colors of a rainbow. No way were the Christian men of Poland, or Hungary, or Germany or anywhere else supposed to help the Nazi’s. They would have been knowingly supporting evil. And that’s not Paul’s point here. His point is that being a Christian doesn’t put us above the laws we set up in our societies. I don’t get to speed because I’m a Christian. I don’t get to steal because I’m a Christian and saved by grace. I don’t get to incite anarchy because I subscribe to a higher law. No, as Christians we have a hand in developing our societies and our laws. We don’t live above them, we live with them. And just like everything else we live with, we are to be good stewards of them. Authority has a reason and a purpose. It keeps order in a society. And as men, we should support that. So let’s support the just authorities over us. Let’s do good whenever we can. And let’s remember God is ultimately in charge.

Manuary 28, 2015 (28 Jan. 2015)

Come Ready to Work (Titus 3:1)

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be READY FOR EVERY GOOD WORK…” Titus 3:1 What does it mean to be “ready for every good work?” And who is “them?” How often do we pass by suffering? How often could we make a difference for the better and decide to do nothing at all? Is it too often? For me the answer would definitely be yes. Life is work. It takes work to make a difference. We spend something of around eight hours a day working to provide for ourselves, how much do we spend providing for another need? This isn’t a guilt trip. You need to be providing for yourself and your family. You need to take a break too. And we could easily burn ourselves out trying to help all the needs in our communities. But are we ready? Are we in a position that we can? Because we can and when we’re ready, God can use us more than we could imagine. What if all of us men were ready to do good? There’s, I don’t know, about 3 billion of us on this planet. We’re half the population. If we all we’re ready to do good at a moments notice… What an amazing place this could be. There’s a saying that goes something like, “Many hands make light work.” We don’t have to lift the whole world. We could never do it. So don’t let the whole world’s problems weigh you down. Be lifted by the fact that you can make a huge difference in a neighbors life through one small act. Be encouraged by the fact that your wife’s day may be a whole lot better simply because you gave her a hug, and meant it. Be inspired by the idea that just a small amount here and there can do so much, because it’s multiplied by our Heavenly Father. So who’s the “them” Paul was talking about in this letter? It’s you and me. And what does it mean to be “ready for every good work?” It means being ready and willing to do what we can. The good news is that it’s not hard. The good news is that Jesus comes alongside us to help. The good news is the Gospel, the real Good News can be shared through simple acts of service. When we serve others, we serve our hearts as much as anything else. And when we bless another we’re guaranteed to be blessed too. Let’s get out there and do some good! It will do us good.

Manuary 29, 2015 (29 Jan. 2015)

Gossiping is Not for Men (Titus 3:2)

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, TO SPEAK EVIL OF NO ONE, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Titus 3:1-2 This is a hard one. “Remind them to… speak evil of no one.” Does that mean I’m not supposed to talk trash about other people? Oh man, I do that all the time. I think most of us do. If you don’t… You’re a better man than me. If you don’t struggle with this… Boy am I’m jealous of you. Because it’s extremely difficult to bite my tongue when I have some really good dirt on someone. But if we’re being honest, does it ever make us feel better to talk crap about someone else? It may lead to an entertaining conversation, but in the long run what does it do? Not much except to instill negative feelings in our hearts toward that other person and probably a little guilt too. Satan has us suckered on this one. He wants us to trash each other, and he wants us to do it in the guise of “blowing off some steam.” Don’t get me wrong. We do need to vent sometimes. Sometimes we need to communicate things that are bothering us. But talking trash rarely if ever accomplishes that. Because our hearts are not just storage containers, they’re factories too. A heart doesn’t store up hate, or discontent, or even love as much as it produces those things. That’s why the Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23 The things that come from the heart do reflect the things that affect the heart, but the things that come from the heart are also, all too often, unlimited. So let’s be careful about what we say of others, but let’s also use a method. And as always, let that method start with God. Because we won’t be able to accomplish this on our own. We’ll need all the help we can get. Let’s start by protecting our hearts from the things that cause them to stumble. And let’s do that by exposing them to the Gospel, the Good News of Christ, first. Christ has the Gospel, Satan has gossip. Which do you want your heart filled with? Hmm…

Manuary 30, 2015 (30 Jan. 2015)

Being Different Titus 3:3-7

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” – Titus 3:3-7

Why would Paul says something like this? Of all things, why would he say that he was once “disobedient.” Didn’t he once defend himself as a “pharisee” to King Agrippa? (You can read about the whole account in Acts 25 and 26.) Pharisees were supposed to be experts in keeping the law. And among the pharisees, Paul was one of the inside guys. He’d grown up a pharisee. He was willing to persecute Christians as a pharisee. He was on his way towards leadership and prominence as a pharisee. So why admit disobedience when he was an expert in the law? Who and what was he disobeying? Because it wasn’t the jewish laws. To find out let’s go back a little way. Let’s go back to the story of the rich young ruler and Jesus found in Matthew 19. This young man does everything right. He obeys every law. He’s good! But he’s not willing to follow Jesus. And how does Jesus respond? He says, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:23b-24 And what is our reaction? We sell our stuff and keep the laws right? Then we can get to heaven, right? Then we’ll being following Jesus, right? Wrong. Jesus’ point wasn’t that the young man was rich, it was that the young man refused to give up his own power. And so many of us are the same way. Paul was the same way. Read any self help book about how to become wealthy. Every single one will tell you that the power is in you. You can become rich if only you decide to become rich and then do what it takes. Jesus’ lesson wasn’t just about money, it was about control. And as men, we need control. We want to be able to do everything ourselves. Or else be in charge of everything. If laws are the way to the top, we obey the laws. If power is the way to the top, we seek power. Self-Reliance is the name of the American game. What did Benjamin Franklin say? “God helps those who help themselves.” Before Christ, Paul was helping himself. He was doing what it took to get to the top. That rich young ruler was helping himself. He was doing what it took to get to the top. They were both using rules and self-reliance to earn their way to God. But that’s not how it works. Not with God. Not with Jesus. With Jesus obedience looks like letting Him take your life. And so often we call ourselves Christians, but won’t let Him have all our stuff. He needs all our stuff. That includes the laws and the rules. As Christians we could go on for days about what we should and shouldn’t do. Jesus wants all that. You may be thinking, “Didn’t we just spend an entire month learning about how a man should be?” And you would be right. But through it all the theme has been, “It starts with God.” He’s the One that changes us through the Holy Spirit. It’s ironic that at times our greatest disobedience comes in the form of keeping the rules. We’re not saved by rules, we’re saved by the grace of Jesus. Want to be changed? Obey Him. How do we obey Him? By giving Him everything, even the Ten Commandments. That’s different. That makes a difference. That will change you.

I hope this has been a productive month for you. I know it can get monotonous, reading the same few pages day after day for an entire month. And I have to be honest. I didn’t feel like reading Titus every day. I even forgot one day. And last night I wondered what more I could learn. This morning I learned that there were things I’d never thought of before. I wasn’t planning on talking about Titus 3:3-7 today, but the passage just jumped off the page at me. I hadn’t even considered it before. And that’s what the Bible can do. It’s different. It makes a difference. It changes everything! I pray this year is different for you in the best possible way.

Until next year, may God richly bless you.

Jake