"The Lord our God hath shewed us his glory."
God's great design in all his works is the manifestation of his own glory. Any aim less than this were unworthy of himself. But how shall the glory of God be manifested to such fallen creatures as we are? Man's eye is not single, he has ever a side glance towards his own honour, has too high an estimate of his own powers, and so is not qualified to behold the glory of the Lord. It is clear, then, that self must stand out of the way, that there may be room for God to be exalted; and this is the reason why he bringeth his people ofttimes into straits and difficulties, that, being made conscious of their own folly and weakness, they may be fitted to behold the majesty of God when he comes forth to work their deliverance. He whose life is one even and smooth path, will see but little of the glory of the Lord, for he has few occasions of self-emptying, and hence, but little fitness for being filled with the revelation of God. They who navigate little streams and shallow creeks, know but little of the God of tempests; but they who "do business in great waters," these see his "wonders in the deep." Among the huge Atlantic-waves of bereavement, poverty, temptation, and reproach, we learn the power of Jehovah, because we feel the littleness of man. Thank God, then, if you have been led by a rough road: it is this which has given you your experience of God's greatness and lovingkindness. Your troubles have enriched you with a wealth of knowledge to be gained by no other means: your trials have been the cleft of the rock in which Jehovah has set you, as he did his servant Moses, that you might behold his glory as it passed by. Praise God that you have not been left to the darkness and ignorance which continued prosperity might have involved, but that in the great fight of affliction, you have been capacitated for the outshinings of his glory in his wonderful dealings with you.
"A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench."
What is weaker than the bruised reed or the smoking flax? A reed that groweth in the fen or marsh, let but the wild duck light upon it, and it snaps; let but the foot of man brush against it, and it is bruised and broken; every wind that flits across the river moves it to and fro. You can conceive of nothing more frail or brittle, or whose existence is more in jeopardy, than a bruised reed. Then look at the smoking flax--what is it? It has a spark within it, it is true, but it is almost smothered; an infant's breath might blow it out; nothing has a more precarious existence than its flame. Weak things are here described, yet Jesus says of them, "The smoking flax I will not quench; the bruised reed I will not break." Some of God's children are made strong to do mighty works for him; God has his Samsons here and there who can pull up Gaza's gates, and carry them to the top of the hill; he has a few mighties who are lion-like men, but the majority of his people are a timid, trembling race. They are like starlings, frightened at every passer by; a little fearful flock. If temptation comes, they are taken like birds in a snare; if trial threatens, they are ready to faint; their frail skiff is tossed up and down by every wave, they are drifted along like a sea bird on the crest of the billows--weak things, without strength, without wisdom, without foresight. Yet, weak as they are, and because they are so weak, they have this promise made specially to them. Herein is grace and graciousness! Herein is love and lovingkindness! How it opens to us the compassion of Jesus--so gentle, tender, considerate! We need never shrink back from his touch. We need never fear a harsh word from him; though he might well chide us for our weakness, he rebuketh not. Bruised reeds shall have no blows from him, and the smoking flax no damping frowns.
Today's reading: Psalm 23-25, Acts 21:18-40 (NIV)View today's reading on Bible Gateway
Today's Old Testament reading: Psalm 23-25A psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Today's New Testament reading: Acts 21:18-4018 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come,23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality."
[Tī'tus] - honorable from "i honor."Titus was born of Gentile parents, and was a convert from heathenism. It is more than likely that Paul led him to Christ (Gal. 2:3; Titus 1:4).
The Man Who Refreshed His Master
There seemed to have been a peculiar bond of affection between Paul and his Grecian convert. How Paul loved him and appreciated his trusted companionship (2 Cor. 7:6, 13 )! What an inspiration he was to Paul on several of his journeys (Gal. 2:1, 3)! In 2 Corinthians Paul mentions Titus some nine times. Paul sent Titus to Corinth as his delegate. Paul anxiously awaited the return of Titus, and he refreshed the spirit of the apostle both by his presence and the good news he brought from Corinth (2 Cor. 2:12, 14).
In the precious epistle Paul sent to Titus, we learn more facts about the loving co-operation between these two noble men. When Paul was released from prison, Titus accompanied him on a visit to Crete, Paul leaving him there to assist the Church in a fourfold way:
I. Set in order things that were wanting.
II. Ordain elders in every city.
III. Avoid unprofitable discussion.
IV. Duly assert his authority (Titus 1:5; 2:1; 3:9, 15).
It may be that Paul sent his epistle to Titus by the hands of Zenas and Apollos (3:13 ), to assist him in the difficult task at Crete.
Paul then wanted Titus to join him for the winter in Nicopolis (3:12). Titus was with the apostle during part of his second imprisonment in Rome (2 Tim. 4:10). Both men were sustained in their arduous labors by "the blessed hope" (Titus 2:13).
NOT THE WAY THINGS WERE MEANT TO BE
When I visited Esther in her tin shed in a Nairobi slum, I found myself talking to the person closest to Job in the Old Testament that I’d ever met. I didn’t know at that moment that she was within a couple of weeks of dying from AIDS.
This slum on the east side of the city is a cluster of huts and sheds made with odd-shaped pieces of corrugated sheet metal, or stacks of sharp black stones. Tens of thousands of people are crammed into this area. A meandering path takes you through the clusters of shacks and you step over the trickling streams of putrid open sewers. Children stare as you walk past. Adults give a glance and even a friendly greeting. My Kenyan host, Jane, who runs an amazing ministry of mercy for mothers with AIDS, led the way into the 6×8 foot shed that was Esther’s and her daughter’s home.
Reclining on her bed, and too thin and weak to do more than raise herself on one elbow, Esther greeted us with a smile. I sat on the corner of her daughter’s bed near a couple of pots and an alcohol stove on the ground. Jane had Esther flip through the yellowed plastic pages of a small picture album, which brought smiles to Esther’s face as she briefly identified who was in each picture. There was one of Esther on her wedding day, a tall and strikingly beautiful woman wearing the cleanest white and beaming the whitest smile, standing outside in the Nairboi sunshine. It was hard to believe this was the same person lying, emaciated, in that shack. A few pages over was a photo looking straight down on her husband’s wooden casket lowered halfway into his grave by men holding two ropes. He contracted HIV and developed AIDS first. Esther contracted the disease from him. Mercifully, their daughter has tested negative for HIV.
Esther’s arms were covered with sores. She blinked slowly and weakly; her voice was raspy. But she spoke of the good things with joy. I learned that even when she was quite sick, she had given her testimony in church, and that she never gave up loving the Christian songs she had led her whole life. The women, like Jane, who helped her get good nutrition and who were genuine friends were visible signs of God’s grace flowing amid the sewers. When she had been strong enough, Esther worked with the other HIV mothers in a small warehouse making beautiful rugs. Someone was helping her do something constructive while she had strength, instead of consigning her to the number of the cursed.
“Curse God, and die,” Job’s wife had told him when he was in a similar situation. Others do give up faith. But untold numbers reach the extremes that Esther did and cling to God right to the last moment. Those who choose atheism relinquish the only hope we have when all other hope is gone.
When we look at Scripture, the overarching truth we find is this: suffering is not the way things were meant to be, but God is moving things toward redemption.
There are numerous sources of suffering in the world. First of all is Satan’s destructive intent-that malevolent evil force at work in the world. It’s a voice that comes through the crafty serpent of Genesis 3: “Did God really say, you must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Untold suffering has happened in the world because people have chosen to succumb to temptation no matter the harm that may come to others. In the story of Job, Satan says that he has been “roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it,” the picture of a pure predator. The Bible teaches that there is an Evil One who has an interest in all human suffering. When the apostle Paul is talking about a “thorn in the flesh” that he had, which was most likely a physical impediment, he calls it a messenger of Satan. Paul asked God to take it away-a prayer that we are always permitted to pray. Three times he pleaded with God. And even this apostle, who knew more about the power of God and the reality of evil than most of us do, knew this pain might be taken away and might not.
He came to believe that God was giving grace in many other ways and that God’s power would be seen in his weakness.
That story can be told many times over. Some of the people with the strongest faith show that strength at the hour of their greatest weakness. That is why evil does not have the final word. Evil may delight in pain, but evil never cashes in on pain.
Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Complimentary DVDavailable now.