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Politics and Religion

Two topics that we learn early on to avoid: politics and religion.

Why is that? They are such important areas of our lives. We make decisions within those areas and read a lot about both of them in the news. Wouldn’t it make sense that we would discuss these topics openly with as many people as possible so that we would form a valid understanding? Shouldn’t we talk about our political views with those who are the other side of the aisle so we can learn from them? Shouldn’t we be able to discuss our religious beliefs and learn from the others?

For some reason, those topics are off limits.

My guess is that part of it is the growth of the autonomous-self culture: I am what I am, I think what I think and I do what I do. It’s none of your business to tell me if I am right or wrong. You leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone.

Perhaps another failure is that we don’t really know why we believe what we believe, so we don’t have anything to discuss.

Another reason may be our lack of communication skills. Many of us find it difficult to discuss a topic with someone who disagrees with us. We are either the aggressive one, dominating the conversation and raising our voices, not allowing the others to speak. Or we live in fear of being the victim of an aggressive person, so we just avoid the conversations.

Though not directly talking about discussions of religion and politics, Paul gives instruction that can be helpful in Christian conversation:

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).

How would these principles shape our face-to-face, or social media, conversations?

Maybe this should be posted above your monitor, or as the screensaver, so that you are reminded before you go into a rant about someone’s Facebook post. Maybe this should be memorized and meditated upon before you go to work each morning.

Maybe if we were putting these concepts into practice in our conversations, we would be more likely to discuss religion and politics with others.

Teach them to love

I always find Titus 2:4 interesting. The older women are instructed to train the younger women to love their husbands and their children.

We hear so much about a mother’s natural love for her children. And that it’s the men who need to learn to love their wives. We somehow have this understanding that it’s just natural for women to love others, especially their families. But here Paul says that the women need to be taught to love those who are closest to them.

Perhaps the conflict arises in the definition of love. Often love is defined as giving them what they want. Buying the children the toys, taking them to Disney, showing up to their games and concerts. Fixing a hot meal for your husband, having sex, and a good-bye kiss in the morning, packing love notes in his lunch.

Those actions are not necessarily bad and may be expressions of love. But biblical love goes beyond actions and things. Biblical love is sacrificial giving.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son… (John 3:16)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. (1 John 3:1)

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

It may seem like a fine line, but it’s something we’ve got to learn – wives and mothers, husbands and fathers, fellow church members – all need to learn to love others like God loved us.

Behavior Modification

Paul gives Titus the instruction to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Simply stated, Titus was to teach them how to live according to what they believe. They needed to learn that biblical teaching was not just about the attributes of God, the hypostatic union and eschatology.

What they knew as facts should impact the way they lived.

And if you read the rest of the chapter, you’ll see very specific behaviors that he was to teach them.

  • Older men – sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
  • Older women – reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine, teaching what is good, training the young women
  • Young women – loving their husbands and children, self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands
  • Young men – self-controlled
  • Titus – an example of good works, integrity, dignity, sound speech
  • Bondservants – submissive to their masters, well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, showing all good faith

And the next verses give the reason:

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)

The reason we are to live godly lives is because God has set us apart to live godly lives. Some will try to explain it the other way around: If we live godly lives, God will grant us salvation and a home in heaven.

The Bible teaches it the other way around: Because Christ gave himself and redeemed us, we can live godly lives. We can’t live a life pleasing to God without his work of setting us free (redeeming) us from the slavery of sin.

And because we are set free, we can live a life that is pleasing to him.

Standing up isn’t easy

Don’t we often think that standing up for the right thing, for the truth, isn’t really that hard?

Charged with that task, the preacher studies the Word of God and proclaims the truth. Parents help their children know the truth and to speak the truth. A student seeks for the truth and shares what he learns.

When Paul writes to Timothy about the qualifications for church leadership, he includes that as a skill that must be evident. “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine…” (Titus 1:9). And that is probably what most aspiring preachers anticipate. Standing in a pulpit, sitting at a table, or in someone’s living room, with the Bible in his hand and teaching the truth of God’s Word.

But did you notice the … ? That means something is missing. “…and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced…” (Titus 1:9-11).

In the following verses, Paul uses some harsh words to describe these “empty talkers and deceivers.” And reminds Titus that it is the task of the church leaders to silence them.

Often it appears to be easier to ignore the dissenters, or the trouble-makers, or the false teachers. We don’t want to risk driving them off and not having an opportunity to minister to them. Or that the risk is great that they’ll take others with them, if we make them mad.

But Paul says a couple of times in Titus, and in his other letters and in his farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts, “Stop them! Get them out!” Zero tolerance is the message that comes through clearly in his instructions for the churches and the leadership.

Some practical applications for those of us in the pews:

  1. Pray for your pastors and leadership that they’ll have the wisdom and boldness to follow these instructions. Most of them are people-pleasers and this is a very hard task.
  2. Don’t be afraid to point out and correct false teaching and practice in others in the church. Obviously, with tact and clarity, but you’ve got the Word of God on your side.
  3. Be ready to take correction from others. The one who lovingly corrects you has your spiritual life as his primary concern. You can grow through this experience.

Time to crank it back up!

November 2013. A lot has happened since then. One thing that hasn’t happened is my writing on this blog. That’s too long to wait.

I need the writing to help me think. And writing about what I’ve read in God’s Word helps me to think biblically. This blog will help me to keep reading in God’s Word and to keep writing.

Hopefully, it will help someone else, too. Comments, questions and snarky remarks are appreciated. As long as you’re nice to me.

We’ve started a summer series in our adult Bible fellowship: Survey of the New Testament, Part 2. So I’m going to prepare myself for being a good student by reading through the book that we’ll be covering the upcoming Sunday, and writing about it.

If you notice that I haven’t written, let me know. That will get me back on track!

Intellectual Property Rights

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.” (Psa 24:1″

If you’re a writer, an artist, a composer, a computer programmer, you’ve probably heard of this.

Intellectual property rights are the rights given to persons over the creations of their minds. They usually give the creator an exclusive right over the use of his/her creation for a certain period of time.

Because a person created something using their creative energy, their imagination and their time, they have ownership over that creation.

Music is copyrighted. Buying a CD doesn’t give you the right to copy that music, even to give it away.

Movies are copyrighted. Downloading one from the internet and giving it to your friends is illegal.

Books are copyrighted. Quoting them without giving credit in the footnotes and bibliography is an infringement of intellectual property rights.

Computer software is copyrighted. Making a copy and giving it to your kid brother is illegal.

The Bible says the same thing is true about God.

“The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein”  (Psalm 24:1).

God created the entire universe with His mind. We saw earlier that He spoke and the universe came into existence. He planned. He acted. He created.

Because He created, He owns.

God created all the animals and beasts. They are His.

“For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine” (Psa 50:10).

God created all the stars and calls them by name. They are His.

“He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name” (Psa 147:4).

God created man. They are His.

“O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jer 10:24).

Everything in the universe has been created by God. Because He is the Creator of everything, everything is His.

That means you do not belong to yourself. You were created by God. You are part of God’s creation. He has intellectual property rights over you. For you to do anything outside of God’s intention for you is to go against your owner’s rights.

“In the beginning God…”

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1).

The Bible begins with a statement about God and His works. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1). Although it is a short sentence it tells us a lot about the God of the Bible.

First, it tells us that God exists. No lengthy discussion about His existence. No list of evidences of God. The Bible simply states, “In the beginning God…”

God already existed before the universe. God already existed before time started. God was already there.

God’s existence before the universe demonstrates His superiority over the universe. Since God was there before the sun, moon and stars, He has seniority over them. He is greater than the earth, the trees and the animals, because He existed before them.

His existence before the universe proclaims His independence. God existed and didn’t need anything before the universe was created. He didn’t need food. He didn’t need shelter. He didn’t need a sense of fulfillment in accomplishing a task. He didn’t need to find joy in the beauty of a sunrise. Nothing else besides God existed. He was not lacking anything before He began creating the universe.

“In the beginning God…” God is eternal. God is self-sufficient.

But He chose to create man anyway.

Isn’t that amazing?