Welcome to Crete

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I have opinions.  Some are strong ones, like Purdue should win the NCAA tournament this year, (just kidding, but that would be nice.)  Some a bit more ambivalent, you know, mashed potatoes with or without gravy, (unless, of course, it’s Thanksgiving.)

And, like everyone else, I also have my own sense of timing.  I’ve come to the opinion that this faculty is a product of both nature and nurture.  I have recently decided there must be a part of the brain that controls one’s awareness of time, and since Bob’s very nurturing family typically ran late, perhaps this furthers my DNA connection.

I also have opinions about how I like to spend my time.  Actually, the word I should italicize is “my”, which, as a Christian, is usually a theological typo.  As obsessive as I can be about getting out the door “on time”, when it comes to God’s plans, I have a tendency to either drag my feet or ring my hands impatiently, both of which waste His time!

Enter one of the intriguing characters of the New Testament, Titus.  In Heaven, I want to talk with this guy; he’s kind of a personal hero of mine.  A non-Jewish convert to the new religion of Christianity, Titus became a trusted friend and faithful co-worker of Paul.  We read of him overseeing financial transactions, going on missionary excursions with the apostle, as well as being sent into a sticky situation in one of the churches in Corinth.

But my personal favorite is his assignment in Crete.  Paul himself writes this to his younger cohort:

“I left you on the island of Crete…”

Wow!  Paul had intentionally chosen Titus for the task—now that’s an impressive project!  Not bad in one’s C.V. for future ministry options; that is, until we read a bit further down the page with Paul’s travel guide description:

“Even one of their own men, a prophet from Crete, has said about them, ‘The people of Crete are all liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons.’”

And then, as if to underline that statement, Paul adds: 

“This is true.” 

Great.  Just great.  Not exactly a K-LOVE cruise with your favorite artists.  Even though Titus was himself a Greek, he had been with Paul, a very learned scholar with high standards of moral living.  Perhaps not a good initial fit for the younger man.  Why did Paul leave Titus there?  To complain?  To despair?

“…so you could complete our work there and appoint elders in each town as I instructed you.” 

Titus was not without resources.  He had been instructed, prepared, and now the Holy Spirit was strategically placing him for reasons of His own choosing which, I can only surmise, had to do with Paul’s earlier statement:

“…at just the right time he has revealed this message…”

Not only had God now revealed his reconciling message of Jesus to the world, but the time was right for those “lying and lazy” Cretans to hear it also.  God had been working.  Preparing hearts.  Using circumstances.  Arranging and developing and “calling those things that are not as though they were.”  (I love that one.) 

Thankfully, God is still working.  Preparing hearts and using circumstances.  In loved ones, in the government, in the most unlikely and personally uncomfortable situations and scenarios.  We all have our own “Cretian calling”, (sometimes within our own hearts.)

And God is not obligated to ask me about my opinion or sense of timing. 

Titus 1:12,13, 2  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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“Told you so!”

Now, there’s a phrase we typically enjoy saying, but  we universally hate hearing!

I love the way Paul does it, however.  Here’s a quick backstory:

Falsely accused by his own countrymen, Paul has played his “I’m a Roman citizen” card and appealed to the Supreme Court, (i.e., Caesar), which gives him a one-way all expenses paid trip to the capitol.  This meant a voyage by sea, which could be tricky based on the time of year.  Putting in at one less-than-luxurious small town port, the sailors think they can make it to the next spot before the weather turns bad. Continue reading ““Told you so!””

Famous But’s of the Bible

baby-boy-2137395_1920I really relate to Moses’ reaction when God told him to go confront Pharaoh.  It wasn’t just a matter of “let me sleep on it”.  Moses’ response was an immediate “But, Lord…!”  In fact, one translation records around five ‘buts’ in the same conversation!

I’m so thankful God is patient.

Contrast that with a follower of the up and coming Christian religion.  His name was Ananias.  News might not have traveled quite as quickly as it does now, but we can tell something had reached Ananias’ ears concerning a man named Saul, and his treatment of the people of The Way. 

“Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.”

So there Ananias is, minding his own business, when God taps our erstwhile hero on the shoulder to deliver a personal invitation to this rabid Pharisee…

“But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem!  And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”

Only one, “but, Lord”.  Impressive.  God, in His mercy, pats His servant on the back with a few words of encouragement.

“So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me…”

Ananias calls this infamous malcontent “brother” based solely on God’s recommendation, completely against everything he has heard about the man up to this point.  Equally impressive, and some lessons are to be observed:

approved-1966719_1280Acceptance does not mean approval.

I’m well entrenched in the “Show Me” state of Missouri.  Unfortunately, however, “showing fruits in keeping with repentance” and “study to show yourself approved rightly handling the gospel of truth” tend to be concepts that the 21st century American church like to keep on the back shelf. 

On the other hand, Saul, (who changed his name to Paul after his conversion), stayed with the believers and risked his own life in the synagogue to the point that they had to help him escape his former bosses by lowering him in a basket over the town wall!  Paul was loved and accepted into the family, but trust came from proving his character by his observable behaviors and decisions.

shield-31869_1280Courage to act. 

I can only imagine that Ananias needed more than a little courage to put his faith into practice.  Sure, he had experienced a clear and specific vision from God, but if he is anything like me (like most of us?) there had to be that sneaky little voice from back in Genesis saying “Hath God really said…?”  And it’s a good thing for all of us that Ananias obeyed, Paul writing more than half the New Testament and all.

anchor-2536643_1920A strong link. 

Interestingly, we don’t hear anything about Ananias in the rest of the Bible, not even from Paul in any of his writings.  Ananias was ‘merely’ a link between the old and the new.  Now, if it had been someone in our 21st century what-about-me culture, he might be tempted to compete for a place in the spotlight.  But that’s not what God had in mind for this faithful disciple. 

We tend to think of a wrecking ball as doing the big demolition, but it would be impotent without the strong links of chain that hold it up.  Paul was a great wrecking ball against Satan’s kingdom, but he needed each link of the chain to do that work effectively.

Minding my own business and staying out of trouble.  I rather like that plan, until God taps my shoulder and points in a different direction way out of my comfort zone.

How many “but, Lords” will He get from me?

Acts 13:1,13-14,17  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Hey, where’d YOU come from?!

garden lastHot, humid, it’s southern Missouri and the first official day of summer, so what else is new?  I’m already a sweaty mess working in the yard, and the compost needs turning, so out comes the pitchfork (à la American Gothic) and the back muscles are put on notice. 

It’s during this little exercise in semi-organic gardening that I observe a real surprise—two tomato plants growing, quite well I might add, to the side of my large, homemade compost bin, hidden between the garage and the fence line. 

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Huh?!?  And they’re as large or larger than some of the ones I have growing now in my suped-up garden with my organic, sore-muscled compost mixed with expensive dirt that grows things “miraculously”, and is watered with our very, very expensive third-stage (whatever that is) city water!  Continue reading “Hey, where’d YOU come from?!”