Titus Tell ‘Em: Do Good Already

“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 to show true humility toward all men.” (Titus 3:1-2)

Titus was a missionary and pastor on the island of Crete. It’s a gorgeous looking place, judging by the pictures I’ve seen online. It’s a big, sunny Greek island with beautiful beaches and rocky cliffs and mountains that get snow in the winter.

crete_350Apparently, it was also a hard place to be a Christian. Even Paul confirmed the reputation of the culture there: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” He wanted the Cretan Christians to stand out for being the opposite of that—to live like they really believed God’s Word is true.

Today’s verses bullet-point some action items for all Christians, including us non-Cretans: Obey authorities, don’t talk mean about people, think of others, make peace, don’t make it all about you—no matter who you’re talking to.

Come back this week to find out why it matters how we live.

Think: How would you stand apart from your friends or peers if you lived the way these two verses describe? Would people think you strange if you were obedient and respectful to authorities? Why or why not?

Pray: Ask God to help you 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 to show true humility toward all men.”

Do: Go to Crete, and lay on a beach while you really think about this book. Or read a little about the biblical history of the island. Whichever works better for you.

Fear v. God: God Wins

” ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah” (Psalms 46:10-11)

I often try to take the words of this verse personally, to be still before God and remember – know more fully – that he is God. I try to quiet down my mind and trust God on a deeper level. I think that’s a good thing.

fear_350But that’s not really the gist of what this verse is saying. Instead, God is warning the nations—the ones in an uproar, the ones making war—not to resist him when he comes to put an end to war, not to think they will ever succeed without him. He is the God of the nations, as well as the God of our hearts. He will win.

We can come up with plenty of things to be afraid of on this side of heaven, but God is our fortress, our refuge, our strength, our help right now. He is with us here. And in the end, every last king and citizen and spirit will surrender to him. (See Philippians 2:9-11.)

If that is our God and he is for us, what do we have to be afraid of?

Think: Do you think we struggle with fear because we don’t truly understand how powerful our God is? Or how much he loves us? Or how temporary the life before eternal life really is?

Pray: Thank God that he is with you because you have placed your faith in Jesus. Thank him that he is your fortress.

Do: Maybe read Romans 8:31-39 one more time.

Fear v. God: Peace through Destruction

“Come and see the works of the LORD, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear, he burns the shields with fire.” (Psalms 46:8-9)

How will God eventually bring peace to the entire world? How will he solve the problem of war in the end? The answer is simple: He will win.

fear_350Human nature is not improving. As much as we all long for peace, humanity is not capable of achieving lasting political peace apart from God. Left on our own, we would never reach that utopia, no matter how many peace summits we hold. Some king, some terrorist, some nation will always be ready and waiting to use destruction to get power.

So while God offers the hope of eternal peace and joy and purpose to each of us through faith in Jesus, he plans to end war by destroying war and war machines and warriors. He will bring peace in the end because nobody will be able to defeat him.

He is our God.

Think: How does the idea of God bringing peace through his destructive power fit with your idea of God? How does it fit with your idea of man? Do you believe that humanity would ever be able to bring an end to war without God?

Pray: Thank God that he is more powerful than war and that one day he will end all wars forever.

Do: Read Isaiah’s prophesy about the end of war in Isaiah 2:1-5.

Fear v. God: Selah

“The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah” (Psalms 46:7)

Stop and listen. Get this. Don’t miss it. Ponder it for a minute. Pause before continuing. Value this.

fear_350That’s how scholars describe the meaning of that word “Selah.” It shows up in our Bibles most often in psalms, or songs, meant to be sung by the choir, but it seems to carry more weight than just a musical direction. It apparently urges us to reflect on what has just been written (or sung).

Fear is a normal response when an enemy is attacking, when the bad news is piling up, when it feels like everything you care about is threatened. But God is with us, and he is the ultimate safe place. Once he is with you, there is no where safer to run.

Think about that.

Think: Does feeling afraid ever make you want to run away from God? What other, less safe “fortresses” do you run to when you’re scared? Why?

Pray: Thank God that he is with you and that he is your fortress. Ask him to help you to run to him and trust him most when you are afraid.

Do: Read this quote from C.S. Lewis and then selah:

“It is a dreadful truth that the state of (as you say) ‘having to depend solely on God’ is what we all dread most. And of course that just shows how very much, how almost exclusively, we have been depending on things. But trouble goes so far back in our lives and is now so deeply ingrained, we will not turn to Him as long as He leaves us anything else to turn to.”

Fear v. God: Kingdoms Fall

“Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.” (Psalms 46:6)

Have the first four words of this verse ever not been true? Whether or not you follow politics or current events, you have likely noticed that the fight for political power in every nation is endless—as is the fight for dominance between nations. Men and kingdoms come to power and eventually fade away.

fear_350It’s not surprising how much fear this generates. When grabbing for power and control, men are ruthless, able to justify every form of evil from genocide to slavery to suffocating taxes.

But the God of peace is not afraid of nations. He holds the earth together and can melt it with a word. (And one day he will.) Whatever we fear from the roaring of the nations, we should make sure we are on the side of – in the safe refuge through faith in Jesus of – the God who can squash them at will. There is no safe country apart from him.

And there is no need for fear in his hands even when all is lost on earth.

Think: How much fear in your life comes from political or international turmoil? Why does belonging to God help with that fear even if the threat of harm still exists?

Pray: Thank God that he is more powerful than any politician, nation, or war. Ask him to help you to trust him even on the darkest days.

Do: Notice how the nations are roaring this week and think about God’s power over them.

Fear v. God: Safe with Him

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.” (Psalms 46:4-5)

Although this psalm is about God’s protection of Jerusalem—keeping his promise under the covenant to keep her safe—it also shows us where our fear makes the least sense: when we’re with God.

fear_350While the rest of the world is being consumed by earthquakes and floods, the water inside God’s city is just fine. We can be fearless for two reasons: Our ultimate home is in the new Jerusalem with it’s peaceful river; we’ll be safe forever with God. No matter what happens in the here and now, nothing can take that away from those who are in Christ.

The second reason we can be fearless is that God is with us now. He has promised, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” No matter what storms come, his peace can flow like his river in our hearts. We will not fall as long as we’re in his hands – and we’ll always be in his hands.

Think: Do you believe that to be with God is to be safe? How does knowing that God’s Spirit is with you now help you to calm your fear?

Pray: Ask God to help you to be convinced that his presence with you means you don’t have to fear anything else.

Do: Read Romans 8:31-39.

Fear v. God: Yeah, but . . .

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah” (Psalms 46:1-3)

What’s the worst that could happen? It’s one thing to say, “God is our refuge and strength.” But our human tendency is to immediately come up with a list of “yeah, buts.”

fear_350“Yeah, but what if I get cancer?” “Yeah, but what if my parents get divorced?” “Yeah, but what if I get fired or get dumped or lose everything that matters most?”

The writer went to his own worst case scenario: What if there’s an earthquake so terrible that it pitches the mountains into the ocean and the ocean on top of us? What then?

Even then, he says, “We will not fear.” Why? Because God is our refuge and strength, bigger than that worst case scenario we can dream up. “Yeah, but what if it happens anyway?” Come back tomorrow.

Think: How many “yeah, buts” do you have that in your mind are bigger than God’s power to help you through them? What can you do to start to see God as bigger than the scenarios that scare you most?

Pray: Ask God to help you to trust him enough to allow you to kill your fear of even the worst things you can imagine.

Do: Ask a good Christian friend you respect how they keep their fears from growing bigger than their faith in God.