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Appropriate Actions

While preaching through the Epistle to Titus, I have noticed a common theme about doing good works. Paul insists that Titus should remind the Cretan believers to live like they believe. Notice how often he mentions godliness and good works in the epistle.

  • 1:1 – “the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness
  • 1:16 – “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
  • 2:1 – “But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine
  • 2:6 – “in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works
  • 2:11 – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age
  • 2:14 – “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
  • 3:1 – “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.”
  • 3:8 – “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
  • 3:14 – “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.

Why is this so important? Think of it this way. If you are telling someone that God saved you from your sinful past life but you are still living a sin filled life, your actions will contradict the message God is trying to “speak” through you.

A sure way to testify of the change God has made in your life is to live in a way that agrees with what God has done and taught in the Bible. That will involve not doing things that are inappropriate (1:16; 2:12) and doing things that are appropriate (2:1-9). Ask yourself the question, Is this action appropriate for someone who has been changed by God? Or, does this action match what the Bible teaches?

Someone has said that actions speak louder than words. Apparently, God thinks the same way … and so should we.

I did something that might surprise you…

If you know anything about my beliefs about music, you will be surprised that I even know who Kanye West is. To be honest, I don’t know much about him. But when people I know started posting articles about him becoming a Christian, I was slightly interested. Slightly is the correct word. Too often, the celebrity-turned-Christian story ends up being nothing more than a weak, self-help story with little evidence of real life change. And you seldom hear anything about repentance from sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But there is something about what he says and now does. His recent album, Jesus is King, is not something I would listen to, but it may be evidence that something about him has changed.

Christianity is the unwavering focus of Kanye’s gospel album, a richly produced but largely flawed record about one man’s love of the Lord (and himself).

https://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/kanye-west-jesus-is-king/

I recently listened to an interview of Kanye West on Youtube with headphones on. If he is a Christian, he still is going through the process of sanctification. Because he uses some foul language, I won’t be including a link to the video. However, you might be surprised that he stated some poignant thoughts.

I was four months in, working on the album. I had the best, luxury shock treatment of gospel possible – forty people singing, sixty people, 80 people singing about Jesus. And I had one of my friends come over and we were just having a good time and it was a good feeling. He said, “Man, this is just like one of those LA churches where they come around, just talking about It’s good … Where’s the Word? People gonna need some solid food.” And then we started talkin’ about Christ.

I was always letting that Playboy magazine that I found when I was five years old have an affect on my music. … I bet you the devil was happy on that day. … I was lost.

A lot of the information that’s in rap, ain’t gonna keep you married.

Since we’re here for the interview, let me talk about the idea of sin and repenting. When people have “they own relationship with Christ” … they know they are dealing with sins that they don’t want to have to repent for. The difference, once you’re delivered, everything that you do is in service to Christ, and anything that you know wasn’t in service to Christ, you will repent for.

I don’t know where Kanye West stands with the Lord. He is a passionate person with lots of energy. His way of expressing things is sometimes odd and disjointed. But some of the things he says are good. They made me think that God is working in his heart. To God be the glory.

Human nature and the desire to do something

“Proud, self-centered human nature desires to have some control and to make some contribution toward salvation. To become utterly dependent on God’s grace for forgiveness and salvation requires a genuine confession aptly summed up in the words of a familiar hymn: ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling’ (A. M. Toplady). The free gift of salvation involves repentance and acceptance of God’s grace alone, but self-sufficient humans would rather add something that can be externally observed and for which they can claim credit.”[1]


[1] Thomas D. Lea & Hayne P. Griffin, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, (Nashville: Broadman, 1992), 294.

Distant Starlight and a Young Earth

The internet has changed a lot of things. One such change is the ability to watch online videos of Christians presenting information about Creation and evolution. The video posted below is not meant as an endorsement of the speaker or church. Instead, it is posted here to show you several interesting ideas about the “problem” of distant starlight when considering the young age of the earth based on the genealogies in the Bible.

I found his presentation to be thought-provoking. What are your thoughts?

Who was right?

During my weekly sermon preparation, I have gleaned much from John A. Broadus’ commentary on Matthew. Before recommending it to another pastor, I decided to look up information about the author. According to SBTS, Broadus (1889-1895) was a Baptist pastor who later served the soldiers of the Confederate army.

For some, his involvement with the southern army should be an instant disqualification of his opinions about anything. It is too easy for us to look back on the Civil War and to declare how we would have handled things differently. We recognize the evils of slavery and are glad for the war that ended it. However, things were not so clear in the 1860’s. Good men on both sides saw other issues—besides slavery—that necessitated fighting the Civil War. Broadus spoke about this in an address some 21 years after the war.

“It is useless now to raise the question who was right. Perhaps in some respects, each side would now acknowledge that the other was nearest right; perhaps in some respects both sides were wrong. … Of one thing I feel certain, neither side can claim any monopoly of good intentions, of patriotic aims, nor even of wisdom. … But this much is plain — the war had to come.”

Address at Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, May 22, 1886

Today, many take strong positions about the Civil War. Some have even pulled down statues of Confederate war heroes. I wonder, though, how many know enough about these soldiers and the Civil War to truly understand why good men chose to fight on one side or the other. Perhaps we ought to listen more to those who experienced the war and seek to learn from them. Perhaps, then, we will be able to understand the conflict and avoid similar problems in the future.

Is Esther a godly example for believers?

One of the difficulties for a Christian when studying the Book of Esther is figuring out why the book seems to condone the moral choices made by the main character. An honest look at the book reveals that Esther was chosen to be part of the king’s harem, spent a night in his bedroom, and later became his queen. (To be fair, she didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.) But coupled with the lack of any mention of God, prayer, or obedience to the Mosaic Law, we are left scratching our heads. How does this fit with 2 Timothy 3:16-17?

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

While this verse is true, we have to remember that “everything found in the Bible is not to be emulated. Sometimes the biblical narratives show us how we should not act. ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him’ (Rom. 8;28), but that does not mean that all things that happen are in themselves good (e.g., a small child killed by a drunken driver). The disturbing ethical practices of Esther and Mordecai resulted in the deliverance of the Jewish people from a terrible pogrom, but their success does not prove that the means used were good or pleasing to God” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank Gaebelein).

Perhaps the best way to look at Esther (as with other imperfect Bible characters) is that she was used by God, despite her moral failings, to accomplish the deliverance of God’s people. We do not look to her as an example of purity or as a godly believer. Instead, we focus on what God did despite the moral issues in her history.

Embrace your brokenness?

Have you heard someone use the phrase “embrace your brokenness?” I was not familiar with it until an acquaintance mentioned it recently. The individual mentioned that a pastor had taught him to embrace his brokenness as a means of learning and changing. This mention of the phrase caught my attention and led me to ask others where the Bible teaches this. The few people who responded to my question did not have an answer that satisfied my curiosity. What follows is the result of my studies on the subject.

What people have said about this

The people listed below are used as examples simply because their comments were readily available on the internet. I do not know much about any of them. So, take these quotations as individual samples of their teaching.

Alan Nelson

“He loves me, He loves me not. When you encounter a painful event in your life-divorce, death of a family member, financial setback-you might wonder if God really loves you: ‘If He cares so much about me, why does He put me through times of suffering and brokenness?’ Actually God doesn’t use tough times to punish you – He uses them to help you reach a level of spiritual maturity that cannot otherwise be reached. What feels uncomfortable now only makes you stronger and more beautiful down the road. In fact, God uses the breaking process out of love, hoping you’ll respond to it in a way that brings you closer to Him. In Embracing Brokenness, Pastor Alan Nelson offers an encouraging look at the hopeful side of brokenness. Understanding the process of brokenness won’t necessarily stop the hurting, but it will make the pain much more bearable. And you won’t have to play the game of ‘He loves me, He loves me not,’ because you’ll clearly know the depth of God’s love for you.”

Summary: This author believes that God takes you through personal tragedies to make you a better person. Embracing what God is doing in your life makes you able to handle hard times easier.

Question: Would you tell Job to embrace his brokenness (the bad things he had gone through?

Opinion: It seems that it would be better to say, Embrace God’s perfecting work in your life (Rom. 8:28). We are not told to embrace the bad things that happen to us, but to trust God through them.

Joni Eareckson Tada

“Every day I lean heavily on a cross-shaped crutch because I am weak; I am needy, and I’m so broken. And there are so many things about me that require fixing. And I am not ashamed to admit it, because that is my access to the power of God. God never pours out His power on the proud and resourceful. No, rather, He only gives grace at our points of brokenness. So, if there is something the matter with your life that needs changing, identify what is wrong, name it, and own it. Recognize that it has, in the past, defined you. Be like a recovering alcoholic. Admit your weakness and boast in your need of a Savior.”

Summary: This author sees brokenness as personal faults. She believes that when you admit your sins and turn to Christ for help, you are embracing your brokenness.

Question: Does repentance include an embrace of sins?

Opinion: Perhaps a better way to say it is, Admit your brokenness. Embrace your sinfulness makes it seem like you are loving what your should hate.

Seth Barnes

“One of the great struggles we all face is to come to the place where we can recognize our brokenness and be OK with it. … Yet it’s so hard to embrace your own brokenness. To admit it and even talk openly about it. … The truth is, we’re all broken and we need to embrace our brokenness instead of locking it away.”

Summary: This author says embracing your brokenness is admitting your sin instead of hiding it from others. He cites one of his heroes who finally admitted to lying about his addiction to alcohol. Once he admitted it, he felt free.

Question: Should you embrace your sinfulness?

Opinion: This gives the idea that you should embrace the fact that you are a sinner. Recognizing your sinfulness and dealing with it are good things, but should not include a loving embrace.

Cody Mitchell

“During these six months, I learned a very valuable lesson. I learned that I was beautiful even though I considered myself internally broken. I even began a morning mantra as I stepped out of my car. I would tell myself ‘you are beautiful, life is beautiful, and embrace everything who you are in this moment, even the broken aspects.’ … The only way to begin this process is to simply embrace who you are in this present moment. From there give thanks to anything that has ever happened in your life that has made you feel broken. … So in conclusion, embrace your brokenness because without it you could not be this beautiful person now.”

Summary: This author does not claim to be a Christian. He says that yoga has helped him to handle the difficult things in his life including having to live out of his car for six months. His view of the phrase has nothing to do with God.

Question: Are Christians borrowing catchy phrases from the world?

Opinion: While some people struggle with their self-worth after experiencing abuse, a broken family, or bad situations, the answer is not repeating catchy phrases. The answer is viewing yourself through the lens of what God thinks about you in the Bible.

What the Bible says about brokenness

Here is where we find the real help that we need. What others have said may be inspirational, but it is of little help if it is not grounded in the Scriptures. So, what does the Bible say about it?

Many believers have experienced a broken spirit.

1. The Experience of Job

   a. Why was he broken?

Job 17:1 – “My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished, the grave is ready for me.”

Job was broken by terrible events in his life. He lost all of his children, his wealth, and then his health. During that time, he said things that he should not have. But then the Lord confronted him.

   b. How did he respond to his brokenness?

Job 42:1-6 – “Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job recognized who he was in God’s sight and repented of his wrong thinking about God during his trials. From that day on, he recognized his need to submit to whatever God brought into his life.

2. The Experience of David

   a. Why was he broken?

Psalm 31:10-12 – “For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. I am a reproach among all my enemies, but especially among my neighbors, and am repulsive to my acquaintances; those who see me outside flee from me. I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel.” 
Psalm 38:4, 8 – “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. … I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.”

He was broken by his sin and its results.

   b. How did he respond to his brokenness?

Psalm 69:5, 20 – “O God, You know my foolishness; and my sins are not hidden from You. … Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.”

Note what David did in each of these psalms. He confessed his sins to God and then asked for help with his broken situation.

3. The Experience of Jeremiah

   a. Why was he broken?

Jeremiah 23:9-10 – “My heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake. I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of the Lord, and because of His holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil, and their might is not right.”

He was broken-hearted because of the sinfulness of others and the results of their sin.

   b. How did he respond to his brokenness?

Jeremiah mourned because of the sins of others and the results of their sin. He warned sinners of the result of their sin by writing his prophetic letters.

Many believers have become broken about their sin.

1. Why were they broken?

Psalm 34:18 – “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” 

Psalm 51:17 – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart — These, O God, You will not despise.” 

Matthew 21:44 – “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

They submitted to God’s view of their sin and repented of it.

2. What was the result?

God saves this person from his sins (34:18), accepts this person (51:17), and changes them to a proper relationship with God (Mt. 21:44). Look further in the Scriptures and you will find that God desires to heal the broken-hearted.

Psalm 147:3 – “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” 

Isaiah 61:1 – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”

With these verses in mind, we must turn from (note embrace) our broken situations to God for our hearts to be healed. This healing is found only in Him.

Conclusion

We began by talking about the phrase “embrace your brokenness.” After looking at the Scriptures, I think this is not a good way to look at our lives or to handle tragedy or sinfulness. Instead of embracing what we once were or what we are currently experiencing, we need to look to Jesus for the help we need: (1) forgiveness and salvation through Christ, (2) continued help and forgiveness through Jesus, and (3) hope for the future when we will be free from sin and its effects. Don’t embrace your brokenness. Embrace the One who delivered and will deliver you from your brokenness and daily gives you what you need.
_____________

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Good Point

“R. T. France observes: ‘It is important to observe here that it is not the amount of faith which brings the impossible within reach, but the power of God, which is available even to the smallest faith.’”

—Craig Blomberg re: Matthew 17:20 in The New American Commentary: Matthew

What is the furnace of fire in Matthew 13:42?

“Whatever ‘the furnace of fire’ may mean here … this at all events is certain, that they point to some doom so intolerable that the Son of God came down from heaven and tasted all the bitterness of death that he might deliver us from ever knowing the secrets of anguish, which … are shut up in these terrible words, ‘there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth’ (22:13).”

Trench quoted by R. C. H. Lenski in Interpration of St. Matthew’s Gospel

What boys read in 1914

During a trip to the local Goodwill store, I found an old book under the glass display case. The book is called The Capture and Pursuit by Roger T. Finlay and seems to be part of a series called The Wonder Island Boys. I have only read the first few chapters, so I can’t tell you if I would recommend it. However, it was interesting to stumble across this section on pages 50-51.

The Professor smiles at the remembrance, as he said: “That might be called the ‘tree of life’ in our case. It has been said that trees and wood saved the world twice.”

“How?” asked several of the boys in concert.

“John Evelyn said, ‘Trees and woods have twice saved the world, first by the Ark, then by the cross; making full amends for the evil fruit of the tree in Paradise, by that which was borne on the tree at Golgotha.'”

That was not something I expected after a battle with savages in the previous chapters. But it was a nice surprise. Most adventure books, even the original Tom Swift and Hardy Boys novels, had only veiled references to church attendance on Sundays. But for some reason, this book added something rather direct. It would be nice to find a good series of adventure books for children and teens which point people to Jesus.

A current option is what Karen Meyer has been writing over the past few years. Her historical novels are well written and interesting. You can see her books and profile here.