BY KAREN ARKAN

We’ve lived under some “real” persecution.

When I think of some of the situations my husband and I have lived through over the past 10 years, it almost seems like I’m an outsider looking in on my life, watching someone else’s nightmare unfold on some crime show. It seems very surreal and outside of our existence. But the truth is, we have tasted persecution.

Only a few years after we were married, Ramazan and I had come home from work, eaten dinner and then turned on the news in our home in the nation of Turkey. Ramazan left the room for a few minutes and, like some kind of weird prank, suddenly his picture was on the television with a headline that I could make out even with my limited Turkish.

“Man Arrested for Plotting to Kill Pastor”

What!!?? At first I hesitated and doubted my translation. But I read the headline again and I was sure that is what it said.

I called my husband Ramazan into the room and in a very low moment of our relationship he explained to me that indeed someone had tried to kill him and that we had been living under police protection for several days.

Suddenly my concern shifted from the headline into anger towards my husband for hiding this information from me.

He didn’t want me to worry.

For the next 4 months, police with were us 24 hours a day.

The day after the news broke, I went to my teaching job at a Turkish school. During the lesson, the principal’s secretary came into my classroom and asked me to come to see the owner of the school.

I panicked.

I called Ramazan to tell him that surely I was going to be fired. We both assumed that the school was now concerned that parents would be upset after seeing my husband on the news. They may have figured out that the wife of a Christian pastor was teaching their (mostly) Muslim students.

We quickly discussed what I should say to the owner of the school and that I should ask for at least a few months of severance pay.

I was shaking as I walked into the office.

For several moments, the owner of the school chatted with me about how I was doing, what she could do to support me, and how she could help.

This kindness was unexpected.

She finished and I waited for the next part. The firing. But it didn’t come. And I said to her, breathing a sigh of relief, “I assumed you called me here to fire me.” She replied with a generous amount of grace, “If any of the parents of our students are upset that you are working here, they can take their child and leave this school.”

This was the first episode in an outpouring of loving kindness which we received.

Another almost comical story comes to mind. A close friend of ours went to do his military service. He was being trained as an officer. In one of his training sessions, the instructor gave a slide presentation. Our friend was surprised when a picture of my husband Ramazan came up as an “enemy of the state.”

So yes, we have faced some difficult days. Hatred. Threats. False accusations.

Ramazan was even “unofficially” arrested at one point.

But today I’m thinking about something else. Today I’m thinking about a different kind of persecution that has been pretty intense in our lives this year.

I hesitate to even call it persecution. But in so many ways, some of what we’ve been facing hurts even more deeply then having some stranger after your life.

Hebrews 11 has always been one of my very favorite Bible passages. I always read it with such a sense of awe of what these faithful Heroes of Our Faith experienced and endured…

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about (those)…who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies…There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
Hebrews 11:32-38

Whew! That puts our troubles into perspective.

With all that we have walked through, nothing has been as severe as that.

And yet, maybe comparing our persecution isn’t the point.

As I said, it has been a hard year for us. Hard in a different way. It seems almost laughable to call what we have lived through this year “persecution.” But I think it has the same roots. It comes from the same origin. Jealousy, anger, hatred, selfishness, fear. Whenever we become the object upon which these emotions are projected, I think it pretty much feels like persecution.

Its personal persecution.

Ramazan and I are the first to admit that we don’t have it all together. We still feel very young and inexperienced even though we are technically now middle-aged. We don’t claim to have all the answers and it is very hard when we are in the position of helping others and for us to know the best ways to lead, guide, and encourage the people we serve. We don’t take this role lightly and we feel very accountable to the Lord for our decisions and for the counsel we give. We know this is a big responsibility and a job we cannot do on our own.

This year we have faced some trying situations in ministry. We’ve gone into places of helping and guiding to which we haven’t been before. And because of the magnitude of the responsibility we feel, we have carefully and prayerfully plodded these new territories. We slowly and carefully made decisions which we felt were best for handling the relational problems going on in the church we serve.

But the problem is, sometimes people ask for help and then they don’t want the counsel you offer. Sometimes people become resentful of the ways we try to help. Sometimes they blame us for not fixing their situation. And sometimes they lash out. Sometimes they cut us off. Sometimes they choose to stay in their brokenness and become even more angry.

Persecution is defined as: hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs; oppression. Persistent annoyance or harassment.

Persecution hurts because its personal. It hurts because we really love and care about the people we are trying to care for. It hurts when we try to do the right thing, to please and honor God, and then it is misunderstood as something else by others.

I don’t doubt that you’ve experienced the same thing. The same feelings of being the object of someone else’s wrath when you’ve truly tried to help. Its a lonely feeling. Its discouraging. And on the flip side, its the best place to be.

During our discussions, Ramazan and I always end up coming back to the same point. We did what would honor the Lord. Even when it was hard and unpopular. Even when we would have rather excused behaviors for the sake of staying on the good side of someone. Even when it was easier not to get involved. Even when it took us extra time and put us in awkward situations. And surprisingly we have found an ocean of peace in that place.

God has never asked us to be pleasers of people. He has asked us to be faithful. And the deepest place in our hearts yearns to be as faithful and honored as the Heroes of Our Faith.

Years ago, Ramazan chose to take what he thought was the easiest and best way to handle a terrible situation. He chose not to tell me about the man who was arrested for trying to kill him. He was afraid of what my reaction would be. He thought staying silent was the best thing for me (and for him). He thought avoidance would protect me. This kind of tiptoeing actually hurt our relationship more than it helped us. Since then he has definitely learned his lesson and the Lord has redeemed that situation by bringing us closer as we faced that deep trial together.

There are definitely times to stay silent, but fear shouldn’t keep us from making the right choices in standing up for our beliefs and encouraging others towards living lives of integrity.

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So While in Church this morning my Senior Pastor reminded me of the piece opined by Elnathan John in July 2012, though sacarstically comical, it points to our religiousness as a people and lacking Godly Character. I will allow you read through it, feel free to drop a comment or your thoughts in the Comment Section.

The Nigerian god is one. It may have many different manifestations, but it is essentially different sides of the same coin. Sometimes, adherents of the different sides may fight and kill each other. But Nigerians essentially follow the Nigerian god.

This article is for all those who want to become better worshipers. If you are a new or prospective convert, God will bless you for choosing the Nigerian god. This is just how you must worship him.

First, you must understand that being a worshiper has nothing to do with character, good works or righteousness. So the fact that you choose to open every meeting with multiple prayers does not mean that you intend to do what is right. The opening prayer is important. Nothing can work without it. If you are gathered to discuss how to inflate contracts, begin with an opening prayer or two. If you are gathered to discuss how to rig elections, begin with a prayer. The Nigerian god appreciates communication.

When you sneak away from your wife to call your girlfriend in the bathroom, and she asks if you will come this weekend, you must say—in addition to “Yes”—“By God’s grace” or “God willing”. It doesn’t matter the language you use. Just add it. The Nigerian god likes to be consulted before you do anything, including a trip to Obudu to see your lover.

When worshipping the Nigerian god, be loud. No, the Nigerian god is not hard of hearing. It is just that he appreciates your loud fervour, like he appreciates loud raucous music. The Nigerian god doesn’t care if you have neighbours and neither should you. When you are worshipping in your house, make sure the neighbours can’t sleep. Use loud speakers even if you are only two in the building. Anyone who complains must be evil. God will judge such a person.

This is how the Nigerian god judges people who are your enemies- evil people who want to spoil your hustle; like your colleagues who don’t want your promotion; like your single old aunties who secretly don’t want you to marry that rich handsome man (who you haven’t met yet); like all your neighbours who are stopping you from getting pregnant: He violently consumes them by fire. He returns all their evil plans back to sender. So when making requests about all your enemies, do not pray that they be forgiven or that they change. Pray that the Nigerian god kills them off with such violent finality that there is nothing left of them. 

Attribute everything to the Nigerian god. So, if you diverted funds from public projects and are able to afford that Phantom, when people say you have a nice car, say, “Na God”. If someone asks what the secret of all your wealth is, say, “God has been good to me”. By this you mean the Nigerian god who gave you the uncommon wisdom to re-appropriate public funds.

Consult the Nigerian god when you don’t feel like working. The Nigerian god understands that we live in a harsh climate where it is hard to do any real work. So, if you have no clue how to be in charge and things start collapsing, ask people to pray to God and ask for his intervention.

The Nigerian god loves elections and politics. When you have bribed people to get the Party nomination, used thugs to steal and stuff ballot boxes, intimidated people into either sitting at home or voting for you, lied about everything from your assets to your age, and you eventually, (through God’s grace), win the elections, you must begin by declaring that your success is the wish of God and that the other candidate should accept this will of God. It is not your fault whom the Nigerian god chooses to reward with political success. How can mere mortals complain?

The Nigerian god does not tolerate disrespect. If someone insults your religion, you must look for anyone like them and kill them. Doesn’t matter what you use—sticks, machetes, grenade launchers, IED’s, AK47’s. The Nigerian god sometimes deeply appreciates a good beheading for people who blaspheme. If the person who insults your religion is online and you can’t locate them, feel free to threaten to kill them. Like we say in Nigeria: “at all-at all na im bad pass”. Something is better than nothing at all. 

The Nigerian god performs signs and wonders. He does everything from cure HIV to High BP. And the Nigerian god is creative: he can teach a person who was born blind the difference between blue and green when the man of god asks, and he can teach a person born deaf instant English. As a worshipper you must let him deliver you because every case of sickness is caused by evil demons and not infections. Every case of barrenness is caused by witches and has no scientific explanation. So instead of hospital, visit agents of the Nigerian god. But the Nigerian god does not cure corruption. Do not attempt to mock him.

If you worship the Nigerian god, you are under no obligation to be nice or kind to people who are not worshippers. They deserve no courtesy.

The Nigerian god is also online. As a worshipper, you are not obliged to be good or decent on Facebook or Twitter all week except on Friday and Sunday, both of which the Nigerian god marks as holy. So you may forward obscene photos, insult people, forward lewd jokes on all days except the holy days. On those holy days, whichever applies to you, put up statuses saying how much you are crazy about God.

These days, the Nigerian god also permits tweets and Facebook updates like: “Now in Church” or “This guy in front of me needs to stop dozing” when performing acts of worship. Also, nothing like a Twitter hashtag with your pastors sermon. These are great hashtags to consider for Sundays: #SundaysWithJesus #JesusRocks #SundaySermon #Crazy4JC

In all, the Nigerian god is very kind and accommodating. He gives glory and riches and private jets. And if you worship him well, he will immensely bless your hustle.

When He had said this Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:43-44 NIV

This event triggered the Pharisees to crucify Jesus. Lazarus had been dead four days. Jewish tradition prompted the family to bury soon after death, but the Jews also believed the spirit hovered over the dead body for up to three days. This time too had passed. Lazarus was a fully dead man! It was a real miracle to bring him back to life, and this was too much for the Pharisees. What the Pharisees underestimated was that this power would continue to be exhibited in the life of Christians for thousands of years to come. If you are a child of God, you have been brought from death unto life.

Jesus had raised Lazarus from the grave. We should love the story because it shows the power of the Savior. We can know that if He can raise the dead to life, we can trust Him to help us make our house payment or whatever struggles our life may hold. We need to remember that today. Since Jesus has power over death, is there anything in your life that He can’t handle?

Jesus came to give us life! Jesus told Lazarus to take off His grave clothes, to quit “living” like he was dead. Shouldn’t we do the same thing? Have you received Christ as your Savior? Is your name recorded in Heaven as a child of God? Have the angels sung “Glory” over your salvation? Have you personally, without reservation, believed that Jesus died for your sins, and that the only way you will enter Heaven is through the grace of His shed blood on the cross?

Well, TAKE OFF YOUR GRAVE CLOTHES! Quit “living” among the dead. Look alive! Jesus saved you by grace, through faith, not unto death, but unto life! Shouldn’t that make a noticeable difference in your life today? SO LIVE! Don’t let this world steal your joy. Don’t let Satan rob you of your peace. Stop worrying over tomorrow.  Start living!

Take off your grave clothes and LIVE!

Why should we wait for marriage for sex? 

Seriously, if you had to answer that question, what’s the first thing you’d say?

Many of us would reply, “Because God wants us to!” That’s what we were taught. But here’s the problem with using that as the main reason: It makes it seem like we only have one chance to get this right, and I think it’s one of the main reasons that so many women carry such shame about sex (even women who waited until they were married!). We make it seem like God doesn’t like sex, which isn’t true at all! And we make it seem like purity is an all or nothing thing.

Last night I listened to a podcast with the Sex Chat for Christian Wives gals, and one of the things they talked about was how to give kids the message that sex is meant for marriage WITHOUT adding heaps of shame. I think the way that you do that is by explaining the reasons WHY God wants us to wait for marriage.

So I’d like to do that today. Perhaps some of you could have better used this post five or ten years ago, but it’s an important one, so if you like it, please pass it on!

The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex

Among those who are very committed Christians, only about 30% waited until they were married to have sex. Of those who did not wait, though, a tremendous proportion volunteered on the survey that they wished they had. So many said, “Why didn’t we just wait the extra two weeks?” Many say they’ve been plagued with guilt since.

First, if you didn’t make it until your wedding, and you did have sex first, you need to let the guilt go. Jesus died for that, and to carry around the guilt only hurts you, your marriage, and your sex life. To carry around the guilt is to say that Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t enough for you, and that’s just adding to the problem! So let it go. You are not impure, because our purity is not based on what we did with our bodies, but on what Jesus did with His.

But the real thing I want to talk about was this comment. One woman said,

“I grew up with everybody telling me why I should have sex. Nobody took the time–not my parents, not my teachers, not my friends–to give me a good reason not to. I should have waited, and I’m going to make sure my children know why.”

I thought that was rather sad, but also rather typical. So in this post, I want to give you the reasons why you should wait.

Why Wait for Marriage to Have Sex? 6 Reasons it's best to wait--and I'm not even mentioning STDs or pregnancy, either! Let's just look at the relationship.

1. God does tell us to wait until marriage for sex.

Some people question if God really DOES tell us to, because no where in the Bible does it say, “don’t have sex with someone you’re not married to.” You’re right. The Bible does not use those words. But it does use the words “sexual immorality”, which is a more modern translation of the word “fornication”. And what does fornication mean? Having sex with someone you’re not married to. So the Bible DOES say it; it just uses older words to do so, and we sometimes forget what they mean.

Nevertheless, as I said, this isn’t the main one I want to stress. It isn’t like God is up there in heaven, thinking of ways to make our lives miserable, or at least a lot less fun. No, when He has a command, there’s a good reason for it. And let’s look at those reasons:

2. Having sex before you’re married can make your friendship less powerful.

Here’s a comment another woman made:

I wish we had waited until we were married, because our relationship became nothing but sex. We didn’t know how to do anything else.

Sex is a powerful force. It is physically amazing (or at least it can be), and once you start, it’s hard to stop. It seems like that’s what you should be doing all the time.

And many couples, once they become sexually active, find that their relationship does now revolve around sex. Instead of finding other things to do, they stay in. Instead of socializing with other people, they jump in bed. And what happens? They lose their friendship. In fact, studies have shown that the level of emotional connection you’re at when you start having sex tends to be the level you stay at. Sex gives you an artificial feeling of intimacy. Then when you get married,  you realize your relationship is shallow, and it’s harder to get it back on track. It’s better to build that emotional connection early!

3. A relationship can’t survive on sex alone.

You need other things to keep you going. One of the benefits of not having sex while you’re engaged is that you’re forced to find other things to occupy your time. You talk, and find out about each other. You find hobbies or sports you can do together. You go biking, or hiking, or you play golf. You volunteer together. You DO something.

Once you get married, you settle into a routine. You go to work. You come home. You have dinner. You watch TV. You go to bed. You have sex. The problem is that, for women especially, you’re not going to want to make love unless you’re also connecting on different levels. And sex should be the culmination of the relationship, not the basis of the relationship. Sex should flow out of your friendship, affection, and companionship; your companionship, affection and friendship can’t flow out of sex.

We need to feel connected first. But so does he. For sex to be meaningful, it has to be two people who truly love and want to be together. But how do you know if you want to be together if you don’t really know each other? You can have sex a ton and not really know each other, because you’re not doing anything else.

That’s why we have that period, in engagement, to get to know each other. And the habits we develop then will carry over. If you’ve been helping out at church together, you’ll keep doing that. If you’ve been hanging out with your siblings, or with your friends, then you now have friends you can spend time with together. If you’ve been biking, you know you like doing that together.

But if you’ve been doing very little of anything at all, what is going to hold you together once you’re married? You need to have a friendship; you need a reason for that connection. Sex can’t be that. And couples who have learned how to build their friendship beforehand do much better in the long run.

4. Sex cements you together, when perhaps you should stay apart.

Another woman wrote, “I confused sex with love. I thought that since we were having sex, we were bonded and meant to be together. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have married him.” Sex gives you a false sense of intimacy. When we have sex, we release the “bonding hormone” oxytocin, which makes us feel close to the person we’re with. We start to experience those fluttery feelings, and the wistful longing for that person.

But it doesn’t mean it’s based on anything real. Many people have “fallen into” marriage because they’ve been having sex and it seems like the next logical step. But while the physical side of their relationship accelerated, the rest of it didn’t. And now their friendship is stunted and it doesn’t look like they can build it up again.

One more thing on this point: the more people that you are “cemented” together with before you’re married, the harder it will be for sex to cement you together later. Sex can cement you together; but if you have sex and then break up and have sex and then break up, you start teaching your heart not to bond. And that’s setting yourself up for problems in your marriage, because sex becomes something distinct from love. You may still love your husband, but you don’t do it through sex, because sex has become only physical. That’s sad.

5. Good sex before you’re married does not mean that you will have good sex afterwards.

Many people make love to see if they are “sexually compatible“. That’s pretty stupid, because any two people can be sexually compatible as long as they love each other. Love should be the basis for sex, not physical prowess in the bedroom.But sex after marriage tends to be different from sex before. Over and over again, my respondents said, “I can’t believe how sex changed. It used to be fun, but now it’s a chore.” Or, “he used to care for me; now he doesn’t.”Once the commitment is there, sex changes. And if you’ve been making love already, it often changes for the worse.

Sex used to be something forbidden, and that gave it excitement. Now that it’s not, it’s become hum drum. Or he used to care about you; now he doesn’t. That’s because you started having sex when you were courting, and he had to impress you. Now he doesn’t.

But isn’t that the way with any marriage? Not really. If you don’t have sex until you’re married, it’s new, and you learn together. He learns how to please you. It’s now part of your marriage. Have sex first, and it can easily become something that is treated in a more lacksadaisical way after you say your vows.

6. You don’t know how to make love.

Sex is supposed to be about connecting you together on all levels. When you have sex without the commitment, you take the bonding part out of the equation. And it’s very hard to get it back. So it means that sex, once you’re married, won’t be the powerful emotional force that it can be for others. It’s still focused primarily on the physical, and not on the rest. The emotional is not the primary consideration.

And so, dear friends, I urge you to wait for marriage for sex.

It helps clarify your choice for marriage, and helps you to marry your best friend. It gives you a tool once you’re married to cement you together. And, of course, waiting helps you obey God and not become pregnant when you don’t want to. And saves you from the worry of STDs. (But I didn’t even include those reasons because you all heard them in health class!)

Does all of this mean that if you did have sex before you were married that your marriage is doomed? No, of course not. It’s just that you have some obstacles in your marriage that need to be talked through. You have a few hurdles, and God can help you get over those hurdles.

But if you’re not married yet, my question would be this: why set yourself up for hurdles? Nobody said they regretted waiting in my survey; the majority of those who had sex before marriage said they did regret not waiting. Listen to those voices, and wait.

There’s a reason God did what He did, and it wasn’t to punish you or rob you of fun. It was to protect you.

We’re Talking Power Here. Real. Life-changing. Power.

Christianity isn’t about how to be spiritual, achieve your goals or have your best life now. Christianity isn’t about philosophy. It’s not about talk. Christianity is about power.

Power to obey God. Power to change. Power to love those who are messed up. Power to get back up after being pummeled by wave after wave of affliction. Power to wield the sword of the Spirit and the shield of faith to extinguish the devil’s fiery darts.

The gospel itself is the very power of God:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:17-18

DA Carson, says of this verse, “One might have expected Paul to say, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the wisdom of God.’ Instead, he insists it is ‘the power of God.’  

And: 

“The gospel is not simply good advice, nor is it good news about God’s power. The gospel IS God’s power to those who believe.”  (emphasis mine).

God’s word confirms this:

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power1 Corinthians 4:20.   

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

Do we believe prayer has great power? I don’t feel electricity when I pray. I feel weak. I’m a jar of clay. But God puts his power in pots. We connect with God’s power through our mustard seed faith. An electric cord is weak and flimsy. But when we plug it into a socket, it connects to all the voltage of the electric company, which courses into our sabre saw or vaccuum sweeper.

Ask God for his mighty power today. Thank him that he promised your prayers are powerful and effective. Remember, the kingdom of God isn’t talk; it’s power.

TheBounce is an Excerpt-based digital publication and was brought to you by Touchstone International. You can follow us on twitter @touchstoney and find us on Facebook @touchstoneinternational
:::There’s Hope for a Tree:::

So on this Sunday, after church, I walked to the patisserie to get me some cake and Ice cream.

As I stood there tired, knees numb as I queued because I am not the only one with sweet-mouth.
I saw the Visa card sign on the table, it read… ‘VISA, ACCEPTED HERE’

Something just snapped inside of me when I saw that sign, my heart just instantly became so heavy and from where I come from, I think I knew why. Church for me has been my place of strength and forgiveness, and I wondered if broken people felt so when they came through our doors. 
There is one story in scriptures I love so much, it is the one of the adulteress that was being accused by the Pharisees, remember that story?
Jesus only wanted one thing, to be alone with her, so he could speak to her heart. So he asked them one question. “Let the one among you without sin be the one to throw the first stone”
“they went away one by one” after hearing those words. “The Gospel, with an amount of irony, says they went away, one by one, starting with the eldest: clearly they owed a lot of money to the heavenly bank!” So now, Jesus has his alone time with her…
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 

More like; “We are alone, You are before God, no accusations, no gossip: you and God”
“No one condemned me, Lord.” And so Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”
What’s more, Jesus “was pure and could have himself cast the first stone.” But Christ “goes further than that. He does not say adultery is not a sin, but he does not condemn her with the law.” This is “the mystery of the mercy of Jesus.”
That He forgives without condemning.
Sometimes I wonder how hard the hypocrisy in our sermons over the pulpit and the reflection of our personal lives is chasing people away from God.
I remember that Andy Mineo’s song where he goes “I am only a beggar pointing to you where the bread is at”.
That got me personally!
And sometimes I wished Christians will show others that there is life in Jesus because we have experienced a genuine fountain of forgiveness from the father rather than act like “Gatekeepers of salvation and detectives in the Department of Holiness and Perfection Affairs”
Just a little prayer!

Father, I thank you because the entrance of your word will lighten up the hearts of your people, you will teach them the acceptance that only comes from you and the unconditional love that the cross shares abroad in their hearts”
YOU’RE ELOHIM, GOD IS LOVE


So, in that story, we see the merciful attitude of Jesus: He defends sinners from their enemies. He defends the sinner from a just condemnation.
He who is the forgiveness of sins tells the woman that she is accepted, that she is forgiven, isn’t it just liberating?!!
I remember God asking me once, “Do you clean up before going to have a bath?” I was puzzled and just responded “Isn’t that what a bath is for?” 
I remember a Friend of mine being confused when I asked her this and in turn, Imagine the confusion in heaven when we act the way we do.
A lot of us are waiting to be good enough for God before we court his presence; before we go to the throne room, but like that sign reads, God is bringing us to a place where He says ‘Darling, your weaknesses are ACCEPTED HERE, In fact, my presence is a fountain of forgiveness!”
He is calling you to a place of knowing that He has loved you even from the foundations of the earth, while you were dead in sin, he has forgiven you. Hard to believe but it is the truth.
Remember what he told Jeremiah? “Even in your mother’s womb, I knew you”
His love does not call you to shrink under the responsibilities of knowing that the one who placed the stars in the sky and called them by name calls you friend, NO.
His love says “The hair on your head is numbered, it all works together for your Good” That’s his love for you!
His love calls us to a place where we are loved enough to say ‘Father, a thousand times I have failed and your mercy didn’t leave me, and should I stumble again, still I am caught in your grace’…
The medicine is there, the healing is there—if only we take a small step toward God or even just the desire to take that step.”
God leaves nothing untried in reaching out to you, He overlooks no possibility, no matter how small, in attempting to give the gift of forgiveness.
God awaits us with open arms; we need only take a step toward him like the Prodigal Son. But if weak as we are, we don’t have the strength to take that step, just the desire to take it is enough.
Jesus goes beyond and forgives us not with a decree but with a loving caress.
What is God saying to you? accept my waterfall of forgiveness, the blood paid for you.
His blood chose you unconditionally, so stop cleaning up before coming to me, stop trying to get right with me before coming to me, no I don’t need you to, I just need you to come.
God is saying, don’t clean up before you come, because I am the bath, I am the fountain of ever so abounding forgiveness… DARLING, YOU ARE ACCEPTED HERE!
In my presence, you can come boldly to the throne of grace, however dirty you think you are, let me clean you up, just come
However weak you are, let me give you strength, allow my grace to flow in the areas of your weaknesses, your insecurities, your fears, allow me to work through you both to will and to do.
Will you let him?
Adam said “Lord, I heard you were in the Garden, I was AFRAID, so i hid, because i was naked” and guess what God’s response was? 
“Who told you that?” 
Sometimes our skewed perception of God is what keeps us away from him. We shrink because we don’t deserve the love we get.
But the cross deserved it for us.

Believer, the price on your life is an overpayment, Jesus paid the bounty on your life, you have received liberty by the cross.
I will meet you where you are, stop the hide and seek… I love you unconditionally, I won’t ever condemn you.
My love is forever, guess what it made me do for you? it made me hang on the cross, it made me take whips for you, I took a spear by my side for you, I am not stopping until I have you… Until you say yes!
… A little scratch here and there, some bruises here and there is not enough to take you away from me, you are my pristine and priced possession, stop pushing me away because you don’t think you deserve this love that I give, no, you are totally worth it.
He is saying… hey you, woss, I made you, I love you just the way you are, I don’t want you to do better just to please me, nah I want you like that, don’t put on the make-up when you come into my presence, I want you without a snapchat filter, I made you remember?
Like the Samaritan woman, he asks us to drink and not thirst anymore, he says, when you get to the end of yourself, free refills are ACCEPTED HERE! 
So, tossed around by weaknesses, insecurities,chained by sicknesses, what is he saying like Visa Card? YOU ARE ACCEPTED HERE!
Come when you think I don’t deserve you, when you don’t like what you see, when you think your card will be declined, and you will still be ACCEPTED HERE.
His words are not empty, because he proved his love by his sacrifice.

Here’s what John the Beloved says of Jesus…
“Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” John 15:13
He went to the bottom for you, descended to the depths, suffering the consequences of all your failures and totality of your fears.
Thoughts of you keep him awake, you are ACCEPTED HERE!
Feel free to Come, Come when you feel like the worse Sinner, come when you feel higher, Come when you are depressed, come when you are less impressed, COME, YOU ARE ACCEPTED HERE. 

#Selah

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:::There’s Hope for a Tree:::

Inestimable Value 

If we follow Jesus’s advice to fear only God, we come to his intriguing question: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?” The Greek actually says “two assaria,” which were Roman coins made of copper and together were worth about one-eighth of a day’s wage for a laborer. It would take, in other words, roughly half an hour’s worth of work to earn enough to buy a sparrow at the market. A day laborer could earn enough to buy a sparrow without breaking a sweat. And yet, Jesus assures his disciples, God remembers each sparrow individually. 

If we are to think rightly, we must look up—at the birds. But what do sparrows have to do with the preceding command to fear God, not man? Simply this: if we cast our lot with God, he will not forget us, no matter how insignificant we may appear. In fact, Jesus assures his fearful disciples, God knows the very number of hairs on our heads. That’s intimacy beyond our wildest dreams. He made us. Nothing about us or our disheveled lives surprises him. God has things under control and can be trusted completely in the face of any difficulty. 

Even for the disabled, who are often considered to be worth less than birds in today’s culture. Stephanie Hubach is the mother of Timmy, a child with Down syndrome. She has struggled with the anxiety, depression, bewilderment, and brokenness that her son’s chromosomal condition has brought. But she has also seen God bring light to what many consider to be an unremittingly dark path. 

“Disability is essentially a more noticeable form of the brokenness that is common to the human experience—a normal part of life in an abnormal world,” Hubach writes. “It is just a difference of degree along a spectrum that contains difficulty all along its length. Due to God’s common grace, no one exists in the extreme of complete brokenness. Due to the fall, no one enjoys the extreme of complete blessing. We all experience some mixture of the two in every aspect of our humanity.”

God has the mixture just right for each of us to seek him and show forth his glory: neither too much blessing to make us forget him; nor too little to make us curse him. (Proverbs 30:8-9)

This question about sparrows, which touches on our inestimable value in God’s eyes, follows his commands not to fear man but God, and it is followed by one more command not to be afraid: “Fear not,” Jesus still says to us, “you are of more value than many sparrows.” Thinking about this fact, straight from the lips of Jesus, gives unshakeable courage. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus again touches on things avian. “Look at the birds of the air,” he says; “they do not sow or reap or stow away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26) The answer is obvious.

Fearing the Future

Sometimes, however, our primary fear isn’t from without but from within. We know God is both powerful and good and can protect us from others, but we are anxious about ourselves. Somehow we think we still have the power to mess things up. We fear that we cannot provide for ourselves, that we can get into messes that even God cannot clean up, knots that even he cannot untie. Ultimately we think our well-being, and that of our families, is up to us, and such thinking paralyzes us.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.(Luke 12:22-31)

Blinded by what passes for reality, we become transfixed with our lives, our bodies, our spans of life—as if we are autonomous, untethered free agents trying to get through a dangerous world as best we can. Or we fear that, no matter what God has promised in his word, we are somehow different, that even if the Lord can keep chaos at bay for other believers, he cannot or will not do so for us. We fear that somehow or other our mistakes are special and beyond the power and reach of God. This is sinful conceit. 

We forget to whom we belong. “Once God takes us into covenant with himself,” J. I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom write, “as he does the moment we put faith in Christ and are born again by the Holy Spirit, our relationship to God is of child to Father and sheep to shepherd, and that means that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit will hold us fast and not let go of us, even if in moments of madness or sadness, or just plain badness, we stray into the wilderness of sin and death.”

After introducing the disciples to sparrows, Jesus moves on to ravens. Just as we are of more worth to God than the sparrows for which he cares, so we are more valuable than the ravens that he feeds. If God feeds them, he will feed us

God’s care is not theoretical. It is intensely practical. Remember that God used ravens to feed Elijah, his depressed and frightened prophet. (1 Kings 17:6) God is not playing games, promising and not delivering. His care involves real, physical stuff—such as food. 

When I was unexpectedly laid off from my job and groping to regather the shards of my shattered career, our church and other Christians came through. Friends across the street picked up low-cost groceries for us at their church. Another bought and installed more memory for our ailing computer. Others prayed, took us to lunch, pointed us to job leads, and helped with faxes and resumes. Some gave us money—frequently and anonymously. I felt carried along by their prayers and practical expressions of concern. 

God’s family was our family, too. As Jesus said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29)

Then come the clinching questions. Even if we choose to disregard the truth that God is for us, Jesus points out the utter futility of anxiety, asking, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Luke 12:25) If Jesus’s positive, spiritual encouragement to trust God fails, then Jesus is not afraid to get brutally honest. And the honest truth is this: Anxiety doesn’t work. It never has, and it never will. “Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:26) Anxiety says, “My fate is in my own hands. It is all up to me.” With that kind of thinking, no wonder we remain wide-awake at three in the morning! 

Not only does anxiety fail to produce any positive results for us. It often does the opposite, draining us of life itself. Those who are anxious over debt, for example, are at higher risk of ulcers or digestive tract problems, migraine headaches, severe anxiety, severe depression, heart attacks, muscle tension, losing their temper, and having trouble sleeping or concentrating. Worry kills. 

Author and counselor Bob Phillips tells the story of a man who met Death on the way to a far country. Death told the man he was going to kill ten thousand people in a city, and he went on. Later the man met Death going the opposite way and pointed out that he had heard that seventy thousand had perished. “I only killed ten thousand people,” Death responded. “Worry and Fear killed the others.”

We cannot control life, so we should not worry. Of course we are called to plan and work, but we must leave the results to God. This is because the results, no matter what “self-made” Americans may believe, are ultimately out of our hands. The best-laid plans of mice and men can fail, while God’s providence can bring us to unimaginable (and undeserved) heights. We are not in control of our lives—and that’s okay. 

In fact, our lack of control means we should worry not more, but less. Children have little to no control, yet few display symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder. They have the least control, and probably the fewest worries. There’s a reason babies sleep like babies. Without the crushing burden of responsibility, they don’t have a care in the world. Children have their problems, of course. They are not immune to bullies, bad parents, or disease. As they get older, the stress of school or relationships can rob them of their sleep and wipe the smiles off their faces. But the norm for most kids, who live at the pure mercy of others, is joy. Perhaps this is one reason Jesus tells us we must “become like little children” to “enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Worry, which is evidence of misplaced self-reliance, has no place in God’s kingdom. We can control nothing. The King will provide. 

Looking Down 

To drive home the point of God’s unimaginable concern for his children, Jesus next tells us to look down, turning from his high-flying avian creations to the humble grass beneath our feet. Jesus points out how our heavenly Father provides wildflowers to decorate the ground more beautifully than Solomon in all his glory. (Matthew 6:28-30) As this simple yet profound act demonstrates, God’s provision is extravagant, promiscuous, sovereign, unasked for, and free. God is not a miser seeking to hoard his goodness. It is in his very nature to share his best, to hold nothing back. 

No wonder Jesus exclaims a rhetorical question, “But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12:28) Such grace, illuminated for us by creation, calls for awe-filled expressions of worship, as when David blurted out in sheer wonder: 

When I consider your heavens, 
   the work of your fingers, 
   the moon and the stars, 
   which you have set in place, 

what is man that you are mindful of him, 
   the son of man that you care for him? 

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings 
   and crowned him with glory and honor. (Psalm 8:3-5)

Meditating on these facts should bring great assurance. Even if we don’t receive everything we want, we will get everything we truly need—God himself. “What, then, shall we say in response to this?” Paul asked, reflecting on God’s plan of salvation. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Persistent Anxiety 

That should be the end of the matter, but it isn’t. Over and over the Bible tells people who should know better not to be anxious. 

• “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Psalm 127:2)

• “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.'” (Isaiah 35:4)

• “He [who trusts the Lord] is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:8)

• “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

• “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour.” (Matthew 10:19)

• “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

But we naturally turn to worry rather than to God. Why? Yes, there is much to legitimately fear in this sin-scarred world in which the devil is constantly on the prowl. The night we sent one of our sons on his first overnight church camping trip, a late-spring tornado ripped through a Boy Scout camp in the next state and killed four young men and injured dozens more. You can be sure I regularly checked the weather reports. Our son returned home on schedule, but this did not lessen our grief for the parents of the boys who didn’t—or our protective parental instinct. 

I must confess that, whether for reasons of history, genetics, or choice, anxiety is my natural default mode. Much as I try to project an image of quiet confidence, a lot of my inner life is characterized by fear. I get anxious about how I will look. I fear heights. I’m afraid I won’t be able to meet a particular challenge. I even get anxious when writing a chapter about anxiety! And I suspect I’m not all that different from most people. Partly, anxiety represents a perfectly natural response to perceived threats. The fight-or-flight response to danger is deeply imprinted on our humanity. And let’s face it: those who live without fear often find themselves without their health or their lives. Living without due concern for the consequences of your actions will buy you a quick ticket to the hospital or cemetery. That’s why so many teens die from alcohol overdoses or reckless driving: they believe (wrongly) that they are invincible. The anxious person, however, sees himself as completely vincible, as it were. 

And Jesus, far from denying the frailty and danger of the human condition, affirms it. Not only that, he takes it upon himself, day by day, month by month, year by year. He takes it upon himself and gets mockery, slander, arrest, torture, and death for his trouble. As we saw in the introduction to this book, Jesus has the serenity amid life’s storms that only trust in one’s heavenly Father can bring. 

And when [Jesus] got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

Jesus’s question remains: why are we afraid, O we of little faith? If he can rebuke the winds and the sea, what is there to fear? The answer: absolutely nothing. Think about it.

Excerpted from:

All That Jesus Asks by Stan Guthrie
Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Copyright 2010

Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

Mark Altrogge

In Romans 4, Paul tells us Abraham “grew strong in his faith” and urges us to walk in Abraham’s footsteps. To believe like he believed. How do we do this?

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18–21)

Look to God’s promise not your circumstances.

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations (18)

Abraham’s situation looked bleak. God promised him multitudes of descendants, but the only problem was he was well past child producing. “He considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old).” He also considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. Not only was Abraham almost 100 years old, but Sarah his wife was very old, and she had never been able to have children her whole life. How are they going to have children? If Abraham had based his hope on his circumstances he would have given up. But In hope he believed against hope—God’s promise gave him hope in his hopeless situation. He put his hope in God’s promise, not his circumstances.

We may feel hopelessly unrighteous. We may feel like God could never forgive us for the sins we have committed, that he would never accept us. But we must not look at ourselves, just like Abraham didn’t look at himself, but like Abraham, we must believe God’s promise of grace. He counts me righteous in Christ!

Our teenager may seem hopelessly lost. Our finances may be out of control. We may lack direction for our lives. Our marriage might be frustrating or our church might be a mess. Look to Jesus Christ! Don’t look to yourself. Look to the promise of the gospel—everyone who believes in him shall be saved. Look to his promises to draw near to those who draw near to him. Promises to hear and answer our prayers.

Give glory to God

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (20–21)

Abraham strengthened his faith. Here’s how: “He grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Begin to give glory to God—start thanking and praising him for his every promise. Thank him for saving you and declaring you righteous in him. He has promised to be with us when we pass through the waters and walk through fire. He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He has promised that nothing will be able to separate us from his love. He has promised to give us everything we truly need to glorify him. He has promised that we can do all things he requires through Christ who loves us. Praise him for these things!

We can look to our circumstances—it may not LOOK like God is being faithful. It may not FEEL like God is with us in these waters. It may FEEL like he has abandoned or forsaken us. We may not SENSE his love. But WE MUST NOT WAVER CONCERNING THE PROMISE OF GOD! Rather, we grow strong in our faith as we GIVE GLORY TO GOD, as we are fully convinced that God is able to do what he had promised.

In Ps 43 the Psalmist says “Why are you cast down O my soul? Hope in God for I shall yet praise him.” Keep thanking God, keep praising him in faith in the midst of your hard times. Say, “Jesus thank you that you are with me. Thank you have promised that your steadfast love never ceases. Praise you that your mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

Growing stronger in our faith is not complicated. Look to God’s promise and glorify him. So, what are you going to believe today—God’s word or your circumstances? God’s promises or your feelings? God’s bedrock pledge of faithfulness or your wavering emotions? Walk in the footsteps of Abraham and strengthen your faith.


Mark Altrogge has been senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, Pennsylvania, since 1982. He has written hundreds of songs for worship, including “I Stand in Awe” and “I’m Forever Grateful.” Mark and his wife, Kristi, have four sons and one daughter. Find out more on his blog, The Blazing Center.

The whole goal of a Titus 2 woman is to train younger women in Biblical, simple-to-measure, Spirit-empowered, love-based living.

Paul did not call for Titus as the pastor to train all the women in these qualities God wanted them to cultivate; rather he called upon the godly older women of Christ’s church. He singles out the women of faith, those who had already learned to love their husbands, learned to love their children, and learned to be reverent, godly, modest and wise–and charged them with seeking out and meeting with every younger woman in the church.

The older women are to have mastered all the criteria and the younger women are trained in the last seven.

1. Living as a Priest for God – verse 3 “the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior” 

First the godly character of the older woman in the faith is profiled. Without a reverent lifestyle behaving like a living sacrifice, dedicated to God–none of the rest even matter. That is why Paul starts here first!

Paul first draws a word from the Roman world to capture the entire bearing of these godly role model women in Christ’s church. The Greek word translated “reverent” is used only here in the Bible, and it conveys the idea of priest-like. That word for ‘acting as a representative of a god’ is the word Paul uses to describe the devout and godly character of the Titus 2woman. Older women are to live like holy priests serving in the presence of God. Their sacred personal devotion to the Lord has slowly come to influence every aspect of their lives.

Godly older woman have simply taken Romans 12:1-21 Corinthians 6:19-20; and Galatians 2:20 seriously.

Bodies presented as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God, not conformed to this world,but with transformed and renewed minds, in bodies that are temples of the Holy Spirit glorifying God in your body and spirit, which are God’s; no longer living for me, but Christ living through me.

They have presented themselves to the Lord, they have begun to live life the way God asked them to live–as a walking temple of God, as a consecrated priest of God, as a living sacrifice, and as a bondservant of the Lord.

Godly women Living as a Priest for God;

2. Guarded Tongues – verse 3 “not slanderers” 

Next Paul turns the spotlight on the hardest member of the body to control, according to James–the tongue. Twice in his epistles Paul targets a woman’s habits of their speech, saying it is a spiritual qualifier or disqualifier. Though this is a universal problem we all face, Paul specifically says to women who want to serve Christ’s church–guard those tongues. 1 Timothy 3:11 “In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkersbut temperate and trustworthy in everything” (NIV).

James 3:2-6 tells us that a tongue out of control, indicates a life out of control; and both can cause much destruction. James goes on to note that the source of all wickedness, especially of an uncontrolled tongue is hell; and it is Satan who is at the root of all gossip, all harmful talk, and all slander. If you are damaging the reputation and ministry of others you are a tool of the devil.

In fact the word “slanderers” here in Titus 2:3 is diabolos, the very name of Satan used of him 34 times in the New Testament. Satan has been a false accuser and so each time he incites a believer to do so they are doing Satan’s work. Satan is the ultimate source of all evil, the root of all wrong behavior; and since James says the tongue is capable of causing great evil, Satan is always close at hand.

Godly Titus 2 women never are to surrender their tongues to the devil.

They are prompted by the Holy Spirit to make sure that what they say is absolutely true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report before they say it–lest they discredit their ministry effectiveness as a godly Titus 2woman.

One common type of talk that hurts is called gossip and comes in many forms that all of us, and especially those who earnestly seek to be aTitus 2 man or woman should always avoid: malicious talk, rationalized gossip/talk, and “innocent” gossip. This usually starts with proper motives and desires but gets off course with unwise sharing of sensitive information, then curiosity sets in and soon the conversation is far beyond the problem and the solution and has become malicious, slanderous, harmful gossip.

So what should we avoid? Never use our mouth in an unregenerated way! What should we do? Tame our tongue by the Holy Spirit as His Word richly dwells and permeates all our lives. Why not like David, make some plans now to change our usage of our tongues?

Here are three great ways to change:

  • Think first: before starting to say something pause a few seconds and ask are these words–true or false; exaggerated or accurate; healing or cutting; grateful or complaining?
  • Talk less: it is a biblical fact that the less you talk the wiser you appear. Plan, prepare, concentrate and enrich each opportunity to speak. Make each a time to speak as 1 Peter 4:11 If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.
  • Start now: like David, ask God to fit you for a word retainer, get braces put on that tongue. Don’t waste your greatest tool.

Godly women Living as a Priest for God; with Guarded Tongues.

3. No Excesses – verses 3 “not given to much wine” 

The third godly characteristic Paul focuses upon is the self-controlled, moderation that is to characterize women of every age in Christ’s church. Godly women are Spirit-controlled in every part of their life. They resist excess in any area of daily life. They are not slaves to any substance, slaves to any amusement, any fashion, or any attitude that does not please their Master in Heaven.

Most women in the early church were formerly pagans. Drunkenness was the norm for many women in that society. Drinking was the best way to forget about the problems of being a “slave” to a pagan man who looked upon his wife as a convenience that bore him legitimate children and enhanced his reputation in the community. Because this life was all there is to a pagan, hopelessness led to drunkenness. Paul said that prior to salvation they all were “without hope and without God (Ephesians 2:12).

Coming to Christ changed everything, but old habits are hard to break. The old ways of their husbands would come back, old pains from emotional and physical abuse would resurface, and the temptation to slip back to the intemperance of slavery to wine would grow strong. Lack of physical control of any appetite points to a spiritual immaturity. Both Timothy and Titus were told to beware of women returning to their old habits in this realm of drinking.

Today “not given to much” goes far beyond merely wine. There are so many forms of alcohol never imagined in the Biblical times that can be abused, plus drugs (both acceptable and unacceptable kinds) that can be abused, tobacco that can be abused,, wonderful varieties of food that can be abused, beautiful varieties of fashionable clothing that change with every season that can be abused, housing options, exercise options, recreation options–all that can be abused, and become addictions.

There is a generation of believers who have never tasted a drop of alcohol and pride themselves in that choice–while overeating with daily regularity; and both are condemned by God in Proverbs 23:19-21 side-by-side.

Because of Romans 14:15-211 Corinthians 8:9-13 we see that though the Bible never forbids wine drinking, our liberty is limited by the consciences of other believers and our testimony to the world. The lesson of temperance is consistency.

We must be as cautious of any intemperance; and “not be given to” too much of anything be it the use of money, the enjoyment of leisure, or the establishment of a house to live in. What ever we do is to be tempered by the glory of God. He must be the object and focus of all we do. 1 Corinthians 10:31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. NKJV

Modern society has elevated fashion almost to the point of idolatry. Clothing stores, newspaper and magazine advertising, and television commercials are like giant billboards that continually proclaim, “We covet clothes.”

Expensive, often ostentatious, jewelry for both men and women is becoming more and more prevalent as a means to flaunt material prosperity and glorify self. We are continually goaded to put our bodies and apparel on parade”.

Godly women are Spirit-controlled in every part of their life. They resist excess in any area of daily life. They are not slaves to any substance, any amusement, any fashion, or any attitude that does not please their Master in Heaven.

Godly women Living as a Priest for God; with Guarded Tongues; and No Excesses. Godly women seek to be reverent in their behavior, careful in all their conversations, and never enslaved to anything but Christ.

4. Visible Integrity – verse 3 “teachers of good things”

The fourth type of godly behavior in Titus 2women is spiritual integrity–godly women live what they teach. They train others in the pattern they have learned. Their walk speaks louder than their talk.

Their life is daily placed under God’s control in all areas: their tongues, their appetites, and their habits. They do not overindulge themselves, they are not overweight-gluttons, they are not pleasure-hungry, and they are not malicious-talkers.

These godly older women were noble in everything and in the way they lived life they taught by their actions what is good!

Titus 2:3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. NIV

Paul always stressed preaching and teaching what he was already living. In his instructions to Timothy he said:

1 Timothy 4:16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you. NASB

Titus was to encourage these older women to develop a ministry of teaching younger women what is good.

Younger women with children were to keep their primary focus at home (see Titus 2:4-5), but the older women would do well to reach outside their homes and share what they had learned with those who would profit from it most.

A godly woman teaches by her life what is good in God’s sight. She carefully chooses the “better part” as Mary did in contrast to Martha. Titus 2women see every area of their lives as an open book that should and does teach Christ’s gracious Lordship. They can say as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ”. NKJV

And who is an older woman? Technically in this passage it was a woman who was past raising her children, some commentators even say the age of sixty as Paul does in the widows list of 1 Timothy 5. But in reality there is no chronological age given.

For every woman in this church there are some older and some younger. To those older, you are to look and see if they are an example of Christ–if they are, ask them to show you what they have learned and how they do it. For those who are younger, you are to seek to get into their lives and help them bring every area of their lives under the gracious Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Every young lady and woman in this church should have as their highest desire the goal of being first a Titus 2 student of some godly older-in-the-faith woman. And, the highest honor, the greatest goal in the life of every older woman in this church is to have the honor of being that older-woman-in-the-faith.

If you have children that is where you must start. If they are grown and gone–ask God to begin filling your lives with younger women into whom you can prayerfully pour the love and wisdom of Christ gleaned from His Word, and by your years of walking in the Spirit!

Every godly woman has the opportunity to teach the younger generation of women in the church. This instruction is to occur in informal settings, such as one on one, small groups, or women’s Bible studies. And this instruction is both by word and example. Many young women today were not raised under a biblical family model. That’s a challenge for the older women in the church.

Godly women seek to be reverent in their behavior, careful in all their conversations, never enslaved to anything but Christ, and teaching by example the way to follow Christ.

5. Earnest Mentors – verse 4 “that they admonish” 

This one word is variously rendered into 4 different English words by the top 4 versions: “teach” (KJV); “admonish” (NKJV); “train” (NIV); and “encourage” (NAS). The context and the word imply that this was to be a process of teaching, explaining, encouraging, training, and holding the young wives to a standard that was unfamiliar to them and yet vital for the success of their marriages and families.

One of the strongest forces for spiritual ministry in the local church lies with the older believers. Those who are retired have time for service. It is vital that we mobilize and use these important people. In my own thirty years of pastoral ministry, I have been constantly helped and encouraged by godly, older saints who knew how to pray, how to teach God’s Word, visit, troubleshoot, and help edify Christ’s church.

In teaching what is good they “encourage the young women” (Titus 2:4). This opening phrase of Titus 2:4 “that they admonish” is one Greek word in Paul’s letter, the word is sophronizo and means, “to train someone in self-control, restore to senses, admonish and exhort earnestly.”

You will note the similarity of this form to characteristics of elders, “prudent” (1 Timothy 3:2), and older men, “sensible” (Titus 2:2). Older women are to train the younger women to learn the art of self-restraint. This training process requires that you older women be committed to being responsible, confrontive, and affirming in an ongoing relationship with a younger woman.

The first four spiritual qualities are all present to make this quality work. God wants a godly woman whose life speaks louder than her words. A woman whose character is noticed and prompts other women to examine their own lives and seek to emulate her joy, her peace, her walk in the Spirit in evident and practical ways. The Titus 2 older-woman-in-the-faith’s life is a pattern for others to use in shaping their own lives.

So the older-in-the-faith, godly women of the church were:

  • to behave like holy priestesses of the Almighty God,
  • showing restraint and discipline of appetites and words,
  • living what they speak so that the younger women want to learn from them how to live and please God in their lives and families.

So what was their very first lesson? Training younger women in loving their own husbands!

Godly women Living as a Priest for God; with Guarded Tongues; and No Excesses; with Visible Integrity; as Earnest Mentors of–

6. Wives who are their Husbands Best Friend – verse 4 “the young women to love their husbands” 

A Christian home in a pagan culture was a radically new thing.

Young women saved out of paganism needed to get accustomed to a whole new set of priorities and privileges; and those who had unsaved husbands would need special encouragement.

The Titus 2 models had the responsibility of training the younger women how to be successful wives, mothers, and housekeepers; and the younger women had the responsibility of listening and obeying.

Among the Bible-believing women of the first century there was a big challenge in “loving” their husbands. For various reasons and in various degrees those women found themselves with either minimal or no “feelings of love” for their husbands. Believing wives almost always want to obey the Lord, thus they submit and fulfill their responsibilities to their husbands–but often only dutifully and not lovingly. It’s not just that loving your husband is a virtue, Paul says that not loving him in a way that he can feel–is a sin!

In Paul’s day, men and women were saved out of a culture where romantic love usually did not exist in marriages. Wives were only seen as the trusted keepers of the home and bearers of the children. Emotional love, psychological needs, and sexual desires were satisfied outside of marriage by most husbands. The opportunities for illicit sex in the Roman world were endless. For most women this was in some ways a relief as they did not have to “perform” sexually on a regular basis for their husbands. But the emotional super-glue that the marital relationship produces was thus absent. Salvation stopped the immorality in most believing men’s lives back then–but salvation did not make them or their wives instantly close, intimate, and life-sharing friends and lovers.

Just as modern pre-marital moral laxity has scarred many young couples into a troubled, often superficial marital relationship, so were most of the marriages of the New Testament church. What was Paul’s Spirit-prompted answer? What was to be the way to solve the distant, detached, and constantly tempted husband daily buffeted with the overpowering allurements of the flagrantly immoral Roman culture?

Christ led Paul to deploy a legion of older-in-the-faith, godly women to go from house to house, become a close and trusted friend of those young wives–and train them in how to become their husbands best, closest, dearest, and most-intimate friends.

Physical or sexual love without romance is soon empty and meaningless; and as Solomon (who had a lot of experience) said, soon becomes “Like gravel in the mouth” (Proverbs 20:17). Paul knew that to protect those newly believing husbands and fathers from the tidal waves of temptation, they must have a vibrant, attractive, satisfying emotional and physical relationship with their wife. Husbands who are drawn to think about and wants to see their wife throughout a day away from home, are protected from attraction and distraction by a wicked world about them. Loving, caring, romantic wives are trained not born.

The key to understanding this bold new dimension of the early church’s training is in the word Paul uses for love. Every believer has already repeatedly been commanded to “love” with agape love which is an action. We are commanded to act in a loving way towards each other, our saved and unsaved friends, and even our enemies. This agape love is not a feeling, it is an action. Paul explains agape love in Ephesians 5:25 and Colossians 3:19 as a husbands acting towards his wife in the same self-sacrificial way as Jesus loves the church.

Women were also commanded to obediently submit respectfully to their own husbands (Ephesians 5:22Colossians 3:18). Peter adds that they were to cultivate a gentle and quiet spirit that was beautiful to God and of immense value in the marriage (1 Peter 3:4). This was the reciprocal relationship of a godly marriage on a behavioral level. The commanded attitudes and behavior of believers in marriage is the foundation and the formula for a Christian marriage. But soon it gets back to dutiful, obedient, often unemotional, and detached relationships. So Paul says that it was imperative to go further. Titus is given the key to flourishing marriages and homes–train the younger women in how to cultivate a loving friendship (phileo) with their husbands. This is emotional love.

Agape love is never used in the Bible to describe sexual love or responsibility because emotional love can’t be commanded. The beautiful, intoxicating love that God designed for marriages to have sexually is emotional and those emotions can’t be commanded. We can’t make someone feel a certain way; we can command them to “do” something but not “feel” a certain way. Genuine, Biblical, marital, sexual love is emotional intimacy in the highest degree. God commands willful, agape love; but the emotional phileo love of friendship and sexual intimacy can’t be commanded–it must be learned.

When the younger women saw how the older women loved, respected, admired, and were best friends with their husbands–they were drawn to see that close and intimate friendships with husbands were possible and very profitable for daily life. They learned how to encourage their own husband, how to build him up, how to surprise him with their affections, and how to cultivate a life-long growing and deepening friendship.

“Younger women” refers to those women who are able to bear children or are still rearing children. Since women can bear children well into their forties and the main duties of raising a child last for about twenty years, a woman under sixty could be considered young in the biblical sense (1 Timothy 5:9).

What qualities ought to characterize her life? Love Their Husbands: One word in the Greek text, philandrois, is translated “love their husbands.” Paul used the same terms to describe godly widows (1 Timothy 5:9). It means to be a woman totally devoted to one’s husband. Some women say that their husbands are no longer lovable; but having that attitude is disobedience to the clear Word of God. To help your attitude, keep in mind that loving your husband doesn’t mean you’ll always feel the rush of emotion that characterized your love at the beginning of your relationship. Marriage is a contented commitment that goes beyond feelings to a devotedness–to a level of friendship that is deep and satisfying. If you don’t love your husband, you need to train yourself to love him. Serve him kindly and graciously day by day and soon you will make such a great investment in him, you will say to yourself, I’ve put too much of myself into this guy not to love him! It is a sin to disobey this command.

The best way to fill a home with joy and peace is to have a husband and wife who are best friends–intimately, emotionally, and spiritually.

Experience the life changing power of the Gospel as both old and young women apply these principles to their relationships and interactions.

We learn from the opening verses of Romans that this letter is all about the gospel of God, which centers in his Son. It is the good news of God’s saving grace in Jesus for sinners like me and you. And that good news is all about God’s peace. Paul closes his introduction with this promise and blessing: “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).

These words come to us as more than mere formalities. They declare life-giving hope to seize and believe. The apostle announces God’s stance—his posture of grace and peace toward us in Christ. Just as the words “loved” and “saints” point back to the designation of God’s people in the Hebrew Scriptures, so this promise of peace calls to mind the great Hebrew word shalom and the Old Testament vision of peace, fulfilled in Romans in the person and work of Jesus. It is no wonder that the formal worship liturgy in some Reformed churches frequently begins with an opening salutation, a word of greeting from God through the minister, often taken from texts like Romans 1:7.

Probably the most famous shalom prayer-promise comes from Numbers 6:24-26, the benediction assigned for Aaron and his sons to proclaim to God’s people.

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

This peace is more than the absence of war and strife. It is the positive presence of harmony, salvation, joy, blessing, and reconciliation—“the state of perfect well-being created by God’s eschatological intervention and enjoyed by the righteous.” [Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 139.] In the context of Romans, it is the reconciliation of believing Jews and believing Gentiles both with God and with each other—both vertical and horizontal. We taste it now whenever we enjoy the fruits of repentance, confession, and forgiveness with each other. One day we will experience it fully.

Who will experience this final peace? Only those who belong to God. The apostle both promises and warns, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 1:9-11). Whether Jew or Gentile, the one who knows and follows the Redeemer God will treasure God’s saving gift of shalom. On the other hand, the unbeliever who rejects God’s “way of peace” (Romans 3:17) will only reap God’s judgment.

How does someone gain God’s peace? Romans 5:1-2 replies, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” In this compact summary of gospel blessing, Paul tells us (1) that we now have peace with God; (2) that this peace is built on our justification through faith, God’s grace-work of declaring us righteous in Christ; and (3) that this peace produces deep joy. As hymn writer Francis J. Van Alstyne (1820–1915) exclaimed,

The vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Similar themes emerge in Ephesians 2:11-18, where Christ and his cross form the centerpiece of our peace.

What does this gospel assurance have to do with pursuing peace in our relationships? Everything. It fills us with joy, power, and confidence as we gratefully obey God in our relationships. It provides a model of grace to convey to others. And it reassures us that, even if the other people don’t respond in kind, our relationship with the most important and ultimate Person in the universe remains secure. Thanks be to God for Jesus our Lord!

The saving work of God in the Christian, however, does not merely consist of a right standing with God. In salvation God has done something not only for us, but also in us. Our Christian growth—sanctification in its past, present, and future aspects—began with a decisive act by God of severing the spinal cord of sin and making us new people who are now inclined to love and obey him. The apostle Paul describes this internal transformation: “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8). The sinful mind is hostile to God, but the saved mind—the mind captured and controlled by the Holy Spirit—reflects the very life and peace of God’s Spirit, albeit imperfectly.

Isaiah pictures a similar reality with a vivid metaphor in Isaiah 57:18-21 concerning God’s own promise to restore his people.

“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will guide him and restore comfort to him,
creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
says the Lord.3 “And I will heal them.”
But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
which cannot rest,
whose waves cast up mire and mud.
“There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

In other words—to join Isaiah and Paul—death marks the unbeliever; life and peace mark the believer.

Relational Peace with Others

The twin gifts of God’s reconciling peace through Christ’s cross and God’s inner peace through his Spirit lead to the third peace blessing, namely, relational peace with others. In one of the Bible’s most realistic texts concerning human relationships, Romans 12:18exhorts us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

We find a fourfold call in this passage and its context. First, we must pursue peace as our Christian duty. The apostle commands us to live at peace. To fail to seek peace with people is to disobey God. We have no option.

Second, we must pursue peace with everyone. The peacemaking charge in this text is comprehensive; we must address all of our relationships. Our Lord does not permit us to ignore even one relationship or dismiss any individual. As the apostle declares in Acts 24:16, “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” While this “with everyone” standard is admittedly high, God’s power makes his commands less daunting.

Third, as we actively pursue peace, the apostle urges us to leave the results to God. “If it is possible,” Paul reminds us, we should live at peace. He acknowledges that a peaceful result may not be possible; we have no guarantee that the other person will follow God’s peacemaking plan. As the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango.”

Fourth, keeping in mind the larger context, we must pursue peace in light of God’s mercy toward us in Christ. The entire twelfth chapter of Romans flows from God’s saving grace expounded in detail in Romans 1–11. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). In other words, we must apply Romans 12:18 against the backdrop of Romans 12:1-2 and the preceding eleven chapters. Peacemaking is but one way we offer ourselves to God in sacrificial worship, and that obedience, like every other command in Romans 12, arises from the gospel of God’s mercy in Christ.


Taken from Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts by Robert D. Jones. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.