Posts Tagged With: strength

Titus 3: Remember From Where You Came

There is a very real threat in this whole discussion of how to stay strong in the midst of a sinful world.  People who diligently fight sin, who view their world as immoral, who do not want to become like those around them can very easily become  arrogant, judgmental escapists with superiority complexes.

Titus was living in decadent Crete, charged with strengthening young churches to the point where they could stand strong against sin, both internal and external.  Right alongside Paul’s admonition to create strong leaders, maintain a strong aversion to sin, and to foster strong character is also the reminder that we too were once a whole lot like those we are now not trying to be like at all.  Strong, moral people remember their sinful roots.  This brings a strong sense of compassion while also standing strong against cultural accommodation.

We ourselves, you see, used at one time to be foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved to various kinds of passions and leasers.  We spent our time in wickedness and jealousy.  We were despicable in ourselves, and we hated each other.  But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, he saved us, not by works that we did in righteousness, but in accordance with his own mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewal of the holy spirit, which was poured out richly upon us through Jesus, our king and savor, so that we might be justified by his grace and be made his heirs, in accordance with the hope of the life of the age to come. (3:3-7)

A desire for holiness without a humble remembrance of our sinful past only breeds haughtiness.  Grateful hearts changed by the gospel of grace reach out to a broken world with compassion and a hope for something better.

What did you learn about spiritual strength in today’s reading?   

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Titus 2: Be the Pattern

Preach the gospel always; use words if necessary.

These are the famous words of St. Francis of Assisi, and good ones at that.  Though not a Christian, Mahatma Gandhi said this:

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Long before both of these men, Paul said something similar to Titus:

Make sure you present yourself as a pattern of good works.  Your teaching must be consistent and serious, in healthy speech that is beyond reproach.  That way, our opponents will be ashamed, since they won’t have anything bad to say about us. (2:7-8)

The world needs fewer sermons and more people who live the sermons they have already heard.  If Titus was ever going to be successful in fulfilling Paul’s charge to create strong churches on the sinful island of Crete, the revolution had to start in his own heart.  He could ask for nothing from those Christians and offer nothing to Crete he wasn’t able to be a pattern of.  He was to be the walking sermon.

So too with us.  We can rage on about the moral decay of our world, but until we are the change we are advocating, things will never get better.  Strong churches are composed of Christians with strong character who offer to the world by their very lifestyle an attractive alternative to sin.  

What did you see in this chapter about being a strong leader?

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2 Corinthians 13: True Strength

There has been a whole lot of talk about strength in the Corinthian correspondence this past month.  Strong leaders, strong reasoning and speaking skills, a strong tolerance for sin (though too strong for Paul’s liking), a strong sense of grace (again, too strong), strong pocketbooks, strong charisma and gifting, strong leaders, strong egos, and strong boasts.  Corinth was a culture of strength, and so was this church.

We have already seen Paul say there are other strengths to have that are far more important.  They need a strong sense of unity that bridges the many divides they have allowed to form in their church.  They need a strong love towards each other shown through character, not spiritual gifts.  They need a strong spirit of generosity so as to help those who have real need in the world.  Today, Paul ends these two volumes with one more kind of true strength the Corinthians should be sure to have in a culture that seems hyper-focused on strength.  They would do well to be strong in doing the right thing.

Test yourselves to see if you really are in the faith!  Put yourselves through the examination.  Or don’t you realize that Jesus the Messiah is in you? — unless, that is, you’ve failed the test.  I hope you will discover that we didn’t fail the test.  But we pray to God that you will never, ever do anything wrong; not so that we can be shown up as having passed the test, but so that you will do what is right. (13:7)

What big idea really stood out to you during this year’s reading of the Corinthian correspondence?

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2 Corinthians 12: Strength Shown through Weakness

Today’s passage is as good a verse as any to declare a theme statement for 2 Corinthians.  It is also foundational to my own worldview and one I remind myself of a lot, especially when I feel unequal to the task or particularly oppressed.

A thorn was given to me in my flesh, a messenger from the satan, to keep stabbing away at me.  I prayed to the Lord three times about this, asking that it would be taken away from me, and this is what he said to me: “My grace is enough for you; my power comes to perfection in weakness.”  So I will be all the more pleased to boast of my weaknesses, so that the Messiah’s power may rest on me.  So I’m delighted when I’m weak, insulted, in difficulties, persecuted, and facing disasters, for the Messiah’s sake.  When I’m weak, you see, then I am strong. (12:7b-10)

The point is not for us to appear strong.  The point is for people to see in us a power beyond us, the power of God.  That means we have to face, admit, and acknowledge to others our weakness.  That point when we feel like we can’t go on anymore, but then there is always a little more strength for the next day — that point may be the most blessed one of all, if we are willing to face it with faith.  I pray that we will.

What verse did you see in a new way today?

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1 Corinthians 1: “Christians are Ignorant”

“Christians are ignorant.”

“Christians are weak.”

“Christians are escapists.”

Ever heard those charges?  More and more, these insults are thrown around as simple truths.

Christians sometimes don’t accept the theories and beliefs that others hold as settled fact.  Some Christians even talk about science like it is an enemy of faith (which might just be a bit ignorant, frankly).  Christians can be viewed by some as weak when we don’t fight back or refuse to pursue our own glory and advancement.  And to those who don’t accept it, our belief in an afterlife seems like nothing more than wishful thinking and a way to escape our frustrations and disappointments.

The reality of the situation, according to Paul as he starts 1 Corinthians, is that God did intend for it to be this way.  God has always chosen the unconventional way of working.  Only criminals die on crosses; the gospel was scandalous to Jews.  And humans can’t kill gods; the gospel sounded foolish to Greeks.  Yet this is exactly the message with which God sent his ambassadors into the world.  Why?

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the shrewdness of the clever I’ll abolish. (1:19)

God’s folly is wiser than humans, you see, and God’s weakness is stronger than humans. (1:25)

God gladly plays the underdog.  He’ll take the B-string.  He’ll do things that sound backwards and foolish, but . . . when they bring about change, when those things make all the difference, when they render other things ineffectual, it will be God and His wisdom that stands supreme.

So, yes, for a time we may very well seem ignorant, weak, and even like escapists.  God’s wisdom is still being revealed in its glory.

When has your faith made you feel inferior?

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