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Author Unknown

If I had the power to turn back the clock,
Go back to that house at the end of the block —
The house that was home when I was a kid,
I know that I’d love it more than I did.

If I could be back there at my mother’s knee,
And hear once again all the things she told me,
I’d listen as I never listened before,
For she knew so well just what life had in store.

And all the advice my dad used to give,
His voice I’ll remember as long as I live;
But it didn’t seem really important then;
What I’d give just to live it all over again.

And what I’d give for the chance I once had,
To do so much more for my mother and dad;
To give them much joy and a little less pain;
A little more sunshine — a little less rain.

But the years roll on and we cannot go back,
Whether we were born in a mansion or in a shack;
But we can start right now — in the hour that’s here,
To do something more for the ones we hold dear.

And since time in its flight is traveling so fast;
Let’s not spend it regretting that which is past;
But let’s make tomorrow a happier day
By doing our good to others — today.

Numbers 13

Numbers 13:1-2
13:1 The LORD said to Moses [while at Kadesh-Barnea, on the border of Canaan; cf. Deut. 1:21-22 re: Moses’ reflection on the events of this chapter],

13:2 “Send some men [from the leaders named in Num. 1–2; 7;10] to explore [cf. Num. 13:17-20 re: specific instructions given to the spies; spies explored Canaan for 40 days (13:25)] the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders [persons of wisdom and authority (however, ten of these men turned out to be dismal failures)].”

• Sending the spies into Canaan | 13:1-16
• Instructions to the spies | 13:17-20
• The journey and return of the spies | 13:21-25
• Report on the exploration | 13:26-33
• The people rebel against Moses and Aaron | 14:1-5

John 11

John 11:1-4

11:1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick [the nature of his sickness not mentioned; sickness is a reality of life for all people]. He was from Bethany [first mention of Bethany in John’s Gospel; village located about two miles from Jerusalem along the road to Jericho], the village of Mary [the more contemplative of the sisters as per Lk. 10:38-42] and her sister Martha [the active worker as per Lk. 10:38-42].

11:2 This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair [cf. Mk. 14:3-9; Jn. 12:1-10].

11:3 So the sisters sent word [wording of their message indicates that Jesus had a close relationship with this family] to Jesus [Mary and Martha’s first response was to send for Jesus when they needed help; Jesus was in Perea, a two-day journey from Bethany (cf. Jn. 10:40)], “Lord, the one you love [cf. Jn. 11:5 re: Jesus’ feelings toward this family] is sick.”

Note: Lazarus could be identified to Jesus as “the one you love.” How would others identify you to Jesus?

11:4 When he heard this, Jesus said [Jesus’ words remind us that God is sovereign and often has purposes for sicknesses that have nothing to do with personal sin], “This sickness will not end in death [Lazarus would not remain dead; Jesus would bring him back to life]. No, it is for God’s glory [reminder that God can receive glory even in the midst of the earthly tragedies that His people face] so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Note: How does God use our earthly trials to bring glory to Himself? How would you want your own illness or death to bring glory to God?

John 11:11-27

11:11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our [indicates that Lazarus was also a friend of the disciples] friend Lazarus has fallen asleep [a euphemism for death; cf. Matt. 9:18-24]; but I am going there to wake him up.”

Note: What are some euphemisms that we use today for “dying” or “death”?

11:12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better [“to be healed, to recover”].”

11:13 [John explained the misunderstanding for his readers] Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

11:14 So then he told them plainly [boldly], “Lazarus is dead,

11:15 and for your sake I am glad [not glad that Lazarus had died, but glad that the disciples would have the opportunity to see Lazarus raised from the dead and to understand that Jesus has power over death] I was not there [had Jesus been there He would have prevented Lazarus’ death], so that you may believe [Lazarus’ resurrection would strengthen their faith more than a healing would have]. But let us go to him [to Bethany in Judea].”

Note: For more on Jesus’ power over death, read the following: John 5:21; 6:40, 54; 8:51; 10:17-18, 27-28. Jesus had brought two people back from the dead before this incident — the widow’s son at Nain (Lk. 7:11-17) and Jairus’ daughter (Lk. 8:41-56).

11:16 Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go [with Jesus to Bethany, close to Jerusalem (dangerous territory because vindictive enemies there wanted to kill Jesus)], that we may die with him [these words express Thomas’ courage, faith, and devotion to Jesus].”

Note: Are you willing to follow Jesus anywhere, even at the risk of your own life?

11:17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days [Lazarus beyond what anyone might consider a “near-death” experience].

17:18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,

17:19 and many Jews [friends; religious leaders; professional mourners] had come to Martha and Mary to comfort [console] them in the loss of their brother.

11:20 When Martha [older sister] heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him [did not wait for Jesus to get to her], but Mary stayed at home.

11:21 “Lord [in this context, a title of respect],” Martha said to Jesus, “if [this word may express a need to place blame or responsibility or may be an attempt to understand why Lazarus had died] you had been here, my brother would not have died [affirms Martha’s belief that Jesus had the power to heal the sick].

Note: Have you had an experience when you discovered God’s timing was different (and better) than yours? Explain.

11:22 But I know [Martha affirmed her faith in Christ] that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

11:23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again [Jesus was referring to the immediate situation].”

11:24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again [probably did not expect Jesus to raise her brother from the dead since she later protested about removing the stone from the burial place (cf. v. 39)] in the resurrection at the last day [Martha interpreted Jesus’ words to mean the future resurrection in the last day (cf. Jn. 5:28-29; Dan. 12:2-3)].”

Note: Outlook of those present…
• Martha was looking to the future 11:24
• Friends were looking to the past 11:37
• Jesus looking at the present 11:23

11:25 Jesus said [no one but Jesus could make such a claim] to her, “I am [the fifth “I am” statement in John’s Gospel] the resurrection [no resurrection apart from Jesus] and the life [no life apart from Jesus; cf. Jn. 17:3]. He who believes [places their faith in Jesus for salvation] in me will live [eternal life], even though he dies [physical death];

Note: Seven “I Am” Statements in John’s Gospel:
• “I am the bread of life” 6:35,48,51
• “I am the light of the world” 8:12;9:5
• “I am the gate” 10:7,9
• “I am the good shepherd” 10:11,14
• “I am the resurrection and the life” 11:25
• “I am the way … truth … life” 14:6
• “I am the true vine” 15:1,5

11:26 and whoever lives [has eternal life] and believes in me will never [“never, never die!”] die [spiritually]. Do you believe this?”

11:27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe [perfect tense: indicates a fixed and settled faith] that you are [1] the Christ [the Messiah, the fulfillment of OT promise concerning a deliverer sent from God], [2] the Son of God [affirmation of His deity], [3] who was to come into the world [affirmation that Jesus is fulfillment of promised Messiah]. [cf. Martha’s confession with Jn. 20:31 and also Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:16)]

John 11:38-54

11:38 Jesus, once more deeply moved [angry, emotionally indignant: perhaps at what death had done to His friend or perhaps at the lack of faith expressed by some present (v. 37)], came to the tomb. It was a cave [probably with a horizontal shaft used as a grave] with a stone laid across the entrance.

11:39 “Take away the stone [“The stone would be extremely heavy in order to keep beasts of prey out of the tomb” (Lightfoot)],” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad [offensive; unpleasant] odor, for he has been there four days [confirms Martha did not expect Jesus to raise Lazarus].”

11:40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God? [cf. Jn. 11:4]

11:41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said [public prayer], “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.

11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

11:43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice [to shout], “Lazarus, come out! [“Here! outside!]

Note: “A quaint Puritan writer said that if Jesus had not named Lazarus when He shouted, He would have emptied the whole cemetery!” (W.W.Wiersbe • Be Alive • p. 140)

11:44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped [to bind around] with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face [cf. Jn. 20:7]. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go [to release].”

11:45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.

Note: Modern Bethany is called El Azariyeh, a modern version of Lazarus.

11:46 Some present did not believe and reported to Pharisees what Jesus had done.

11:47-54 Religious leaders met together and plotted death of Jesus.

Matthew 1

Matthew 1:1-2

1:1 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David [a messianic title (cf. Matt. 12:23; 20:30-31; 21:9)], the son of Abraham [first person in Bible called a Hebrew (Gen. 14:13); father of the Jewish people (John 8:39)]:

1:2 Abraham was the father of Isaac [Isaac’s birth recorded in Gen. 21:1-7], Isaac the father of Jacob [God changed his name to Israel (Gen. 32:38)], Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers [Jacob was the father of twelve sons whose descendants became known as the children of Israel],

Matthew 1:16-17

1:16 and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary [Joseph not listed as the father of Jesus], of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ [Gr. equivalent of the Hebrew title “messiah” which means “anointed one”].

1:17 Thus there were [note three groups of fourteen generations each] [1] fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, [2] fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and [3] fourteen from the exile to the Christ.

Matthew 1:18-19

1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged [a more binding arrangement than our modern-day engagement] to be married to Joseph, but before they came together [Mary and Joseph had not yet had sexual relations], she was found to be with child [probably occurred after Mary returned from visiting her cousin Elizabeth (Lk. 1:39-56) at which time Mary would have been three months pregnant] through the Holy Spirit [see Lk. 1:34-35].

1:19 Because Joseph her husband [to be “pledged” (1:18) was as legally binding as marriage thus Joseph is called Mary’s “husband”] was a righteous [devout; law-abiding; took God’s standards seriously; had a high moral character] man and [the following indicates that Mary had not yet explained her visit from the angel to Joseph; Joseph evidently considered two options] [1] did not want to expose her to public disgrace [Joseph was discreet], he had in mind to [2] divorce her quietly [Joseph was sensitive and did not want to hurt Mary].

Matthew 1:20-23

1:20 But [God had another option for Joseph] after he had considered this [divorcing Mary], an angel of the Lord [God intervened] appeared to him in a dream [the means God used to convey His message to Joseph] and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid [regardless of the repercussions] to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Note: “It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it!”
The work of angels in the Bible includes:
• Encouragement — Genesis 16:7ff
• Guidance — Exodus 14:19
• Punishment — 2 Samuel 24:16
• Exalt God — Isaiah 6:3
• Protection — Daniel 6:22
• Patrol the Earth — Zechariah 1:9-14
• Fight Evil — 2 Kings 6:16-18; Revelation 20:1-2
• Messengers — Luke 1:26
• Praise God — Revelation 7:11-12

Note: Dreams in Matthew’s Gospel include:
• Matthew 2:12 — God warned the wise men about Herod
• Matthew 2:13 — God told Joseph to take his family to Egypt
• Matthew 2:19 — God reported Herod’s death to Joseph
• Matthew 2:22 — God told Joseph not to return to Judea

1:21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus [Gr. form of Joshua which means “the Lord saves”], because he will save his people from their sins [not from their political enemies or oppressors].”

1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

1:23 [see Isaiah 7:14] “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel [described Jesus’ role]”—which means, “God with us [see Jn. 1:14; Jesus explained God to us (Jn. 1:18)].”

Matthew 1:24-25

1:24 When Joseph woke up, [Joseph was obedient…] he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

Note: Have you ever avoided doing what you knew was right because you feared what others might think?

1:25 But he had no union with her [Joseph was self-disciplined] until she gave birth to a son [Joseph and Mary consummated their marriage after the birth of Jesus; Jesus had half- brothers (see Matt. 12:46)]. And he gave him the name Jesus [eight days after the birth at the time of circumcision (Lk. 2:21)].

Psalm 118

These notes are based on the NASB text.

What is the background of Psalm 118?
The writer of the Psalm is not named. Most scholars consider this to be a post-exilic psalm. Psalm 118 was the favorite psalm of Martin Luther. He wrote, “This psalm has been of special service to me. It has helped me out of many great troubles, when neither emperor nor kings nor wise men nor saints could help.”

Interesting information about Psalm 118
• Psalm 118 is the middle chapter of the entire Bible.
• Psalm 117, before Psalm 118 is the shortest chapter in the Bible.
• Psalm 119, after Psalm 118 is the longest chapter in the Bible.
• The Bible has 594 chapters before Psalm 118 and 594 chapters after Psalm 118.
• If you add up all the chapters except Psalm 118, you get a total of 1188 chapters.
• 1188 or Psalm 118 verse 8 is the middle verse of the entire Bible. Should the central verse not have an important message? “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”

118:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
118:2 Oh let Israel say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
118:3 Oh let the house of Aaron say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
118:4 Oh let those who fear the Lord say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

The theme of these verses is the everlasting nature of God’s lovingkindness or mercy. Four times the psalmist repeated the phrase, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.” In a day of built-in obsolescence and disposable items, it is good to know that God’s mercy endures forever. We see three kinds of praise in these verses. First, we see public praise: “Oh let Israel say” (verse 2). Second, we see priestly praise: “Oh let the house of Aaron say” (verse 3). Third, we see personal praise: “On let those who fear the Lord say” (verse 4). The best praise is that which freely flows from the heart of an individual, not that which derives from national position or religious duty. These verses were probably sung antiphonally with “His lovingkindness is everlasting” as the response from the various worship participants.

Practical Consideration: We should recognize and acknowledge the mercy of God.
The psalmist called upon the nation, the priests, and the people to recognize and acknowledge the mercy of God. Nations have a tendency to attribute their blessings to their political doings or to their military strength. Ministers can fall into the trap of attributing the blessings of God upon their learning or eloquence. People often attribute the blessings of God to circumstances or the help of human agencies. The psalmist however, reminds us to recognize that God is the source of mercy and goodness. We have an obligation to express the gratitude in our hearts in joyful praise to God.

118:5 From my distress I called upon the Lord;
The Lord answered me and set me in a large place.
118:6 The Lord is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?
118:7 The Lord is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I shall look with satisfaction on those who hate me.
118:8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in man.
118:9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord
Than to trust in princes.

In these verses the worship leader (probably the king) proclaimed praise for a past deliverance. The nature of the trouble from which he was delivered is not specified (although it is safe to assume that it was known to the king and the worshipers). The word “distress” in verse 5 stands in contrast to “a large place” at the end of the verse. When the psalmist found himself in a tight spot he called upon the Lord who answered and set him “in a large place.” This deliverance led the psalmist to some irrefutable conclusions. First, men need not fear if the Lord is for them. Second, it is better to trust in the Lord than in man or government. People and governments fail. God never fails.

Note: Spurgeon comments, “The mightiest man is a puny thing when he stands in opposition to God, yea, he shrinks into utter nothingness.”

Note: Verse 8 is the middle verse of the Bible. It is the 15,587th out of 31,174 verses.

Practical Consideration: Prayer is the road leading away from distress.
When the psalmist was in distress he called upon the Lord. People who do not pray will stay in the grip of distress. We cannot depend on our own resources when in distress. They are too easily and quickly expended. We cannot depend on others. Often they are unwilling or unable to help. We can however, turn to the Lord who always stands ready to help and has resources and strength that cannot be exhausted.

Practical Consideration: The Lord is the source of courage.
The psalmist’s courage did not spring from self-reliance or from military alliances, but rather from his trust in the Lord. The psalmist was fearless not because of any great strength in himself, but because he trusted the Lord. His courage enabled him to be confident in the face of opposition.

118:10 All nations surrounded me;
In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
118:11 They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me;
In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
118:12 They surrounded me like bees;
They were extinguished as a fire of thorns;
In the name of the Lord I will surely cut them off.
118:13 You pushed me violently so that I was falling,
But the Lord helped me.
118:14 The Lord is my strength and song,
And he has become my salvation.
118:15 The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
118:16 The right hand of the Lord is exalted;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
118:17 I shall not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the Lord.
118:18 The Lord has disciplined me severely,
But he has not given me over to death.

When the psalmist completely found himself surrounded by his foes, he trusted in the Lord (see also Psalm 3:6). He did not despair. Instead he trusted in the Lord and looked to Him for strength and deliverance. He faced his foes “in the name of the Lord.” The Lord is the source of salvation and victory. The reference to “the right hand of the Lord” is to the king himself (see also Psalm 80:17). Verse 18 indicates that the king’s troubles were a result of his own actions.

Note: One historian notes that Luther had verse 17 written on the wall of his study. Luther said of this verse, “It has come to my aid again and again, and supported me in heavy trials, when Kaiser, king, philosopher, and saint could do naught.”

Practical Consideration: The Lord’s help makes the difference.
When the psalmist found himself surrounded by hostile foes, he confronted them in the name of the Lord. When they pushed him violently to the point of falling, the Lord helped him. There are certain antagonists we can never cope with. We must look to the Lord for help.

118:19 Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the Lord.
118:20 This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous will enter through it.
118:21 I shall give thanks to Thee, for Thou hast answered me;
And Thou hast become my salvation.

After praising God for deliverance from danger, the psalmist (king) asked that the gates of the Temple be opened to him (verse 19). The response from the gatekeepers reminded him that only those who were righteous (who sought to follow the Lord) could enter through the gates. The psalmist then uttered again his gratitude in praise to the Lord.

118:22 The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief corner stone.
118:23 This is the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes.

While we do not know the circumstances which occasioned the writing of this verse, the New Testament writers applied this figure to Christ who was rejected by many, but became the cornerstone of the Church (see Ephesians 2:20).

118:24 This is the day which the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
118:25 O Lord, do save, we beseech Thee;
O Lord, we beseech Thee, do send prosperity!

Some see the day referred to here as the day of victory against impossible odds. Others see it as a day in which one of the festivals, probably the Feast of Tabernacles, was celebrated. The psalmist and worshipers rejoiced and were glad in it and prayed for prosperity.

118:26 Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord;
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
118:27 The Lord is God, and He has given us light;
Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
118:28 Thou art my God, and I give thanks to Thee;
Thou art my God, I extol Thee.
118:29 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

The priests speak in verse 26, proclaiming the blessing of God upon those who have entered through the gates of the Temple to worship. The psalmist then expressed his gratitude to God once again.

How to Memorize Scripture

Relationship — Read the verse in context.
Reading the verse in context is important because it will help you to better understand the meaning of the verse, memorize the verse, and to use the verse in the right manner (see 2 Timothy 2:15).

Read — Read the verse several times.
Read the verse silently, aloud, and with feeling. This will help fix the verse in your mind.

Reference — Learn the location of the verse.
Say the reference at the beginning of the verse. Say the verse. Say the reference at the end of the verse.

Reduce — Break the verse down into small bites.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! You memorize a verse of Scripture one phrase at a time! Look for key words in each phrase. Say the reference and then the phrase. Repeat the step above and add the next phrase until you have memorized the entire verse.

Record — Write down the verse and look at it.
Get a visual image of the verse. Highlight or underline key words in the verse that can help you link phrases. Record the verse on a card. Write the verse on one side of the card and the reference on the opposite side.

Right — Learn the verse word perfectly.
Be precise in your memorization. Take note of the punctuation marks. Do not overlook even the smallest words – they often make the biggest difference. Learning a verse word perfectly will give you confidence in using the verse.

Review — Memorization is only half the battle.
You must review your verses every day.

Keep a memory card with you at all times.
Make a prayer from the verse.
Apply the verse to your life.
Review your verses with a family member or friend.

Why Pray and Fast?

For years, I considered fasting as little more than something I had read about in the Bible but that belonged in the ascetic world of some obscure monastic order. Although I was familiar with biblical references to the practice, I never imagined it was something I would ever do. After all, things like fasting and putting on sackcloth and ashes were very extreme expressions of desperation and devotion. I was content to just pray and make my requests known to God apart from anything extreme like fasting.

My attitude about fasting changed during one of the darkest periods of my life — difficult days in which I found myself unable to deal with a son who had become a prodigal. My world turned upside down. Nothing I tried to do made any difference. I prayed, I talked to my son until I was blue in the face, I argued and struggled with him, but I could not get through. I watched my son slip farther away from me one day at a time. I lived with the fear that I would lose him — that his dangerous lifestyle would result in his death.

Those terrifying days pushed me to the lowest point in my life. I felt completely helpless and desperate. Only then did I hear God clearly say to me, “Your son needs a champion. He’s battling some giants and needs you to fight for him.” I cried out to God with tears in my eyes and asked him what He wanted me to do. I felt deeply convicted that I not only needed to continue praying for my son, but that I needed to fast as well. So, I called a friend who had fasted for forty days and asked him to teach me about fasting. He did.

I spent the next two days praying and fasting about how long I should pray and fast for my son. At the end of the second day, I determined to pray and fast for forty days for my son’s welfare. I did not know if the answer would come in those forty days, but I was convinced that those forty days would set the answer in motion. And indeed they did. Without getting into more detail, God rescued and restored my son. I have always loved Jonathan, but my love for him intensified as a result of those days of praying and fasting for him.

The toughest part of those forty very personal days with God was ending the fast. I had experienced God in such meaningful ways through that period that I did not want for my fast to end. Fasting enabled me to seek God but also to take the battle to the enemy. More than once I cried out and told the Devil that he was not going to get my son, that I would stand in the gap for him. I felt as though every prayer during that period was like a lasso that God tied around my son to keep him tethered to life. I knew that our story might not end well, but I am forever grateful to God that it did.

Fasting is often prompted by desperation. When Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, faced an enemy that was far stronger than his own, he became fearful but did the right thing — “he turned his attention to seek the Lord; and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chron. 19:3). Jehoshaphat then prayed, “For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee” (2 Chron. 19:12). The king and his people were willing to abstain from food for the greater purpose of seeking God and trusting Him to do what they could never accomplish apart from Him.

Like Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah, I believe in seeking God through prayer and fasting, especially in desperate times. I know what I can do and what a mess I can make of things. Praying and fasting has taught me what God can do and how He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). I believe that there are times when we must either personally or corporately seek God through more than just prayer, but through prayer and fasting.

Titus 1

1:1 Paul, a bond-servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,
1:2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago,

Unlike our way of beginning a letter with the name of the recipient, the letter to Titus begins with the name of the sender, which was the customary form in first-century letter writing. Paul, the author, identified himself as a “bond-servant” (doulos) and an “apostle” (apostolos). The term “bond-servant” (slave) was a designation given to the great men of God of the Old Testament. As a “bond-servant” Paul was not his own and was committed to doing the will of his master. The term “apostle” means one who is sent and emphasizes the fact that Paul’s authority came from One greater than himself. Paul used three phrases to express the aim of his apostleship. First, “for the faith of those chosen of God.” Paul was committed to sharing the gospel to the end that people would be saved. Second, for “the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” Paul also was committed to equipping believers with “the knowledge of the truth” and encouraging them to apply that truth and so live their lives in a manner pleasing to God. Third, “in the hope of eternal life.” Paul lived and labored with the conviction that his life and ministry had eternal significance.

1:3 but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior;

This “hope of eternal life” was manifested at the proper time in the person of Jesus and proclaimed through the preaching of the Apostle Paul. God sent His Son into the world “at the proper time.” The time was proper for several reasons. First, practically everyone in the known world spoke Greek thus making it easier to communicate the gospel message. Second, people could travel in safety throughout the Roman Empire over of a network of good roads because the world was at peace. Third, people were looking for answers to life’s bigger questions and were receptive to the message of salvation. God entrusted the message of salvation to Paul who preached it faithfully.

1:4 to Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Paul’s letter was addressed to Titus, a Greek believer (Gal. 2:3), who was a dear and trusted friend. Paul referred to him as “my true child,” a term that suggests the possibility that Titus was converted to faith in Christ by Paul. Titus is mentioned by name in 2 Corinthians, Galatians, and 2 Timothy. Although Titus is not mentioned by name in the book of Acts, he accompanied Paul and Barnabas (Gal. 2:1-10) to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) where he was “Exhibit A” that the Jewish rite of circumcision was not necessary for salvation. Titus also was a trustworthy individual who assisted Paul in dealing with the troubled church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:13-14; 8:6,16,23; 12:18). He was highly regarded by Paul who referred to him as “my partner and fellow worker” (2 Corinthians 8:23). “Grace” (God’s unmerited favor) and peace (the result of a proper response to God’s grace)” come “from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Savior.”

1:5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you might set in order what remains, and appoint elders in every city as I directed you,

At the time of this writing, Titus had already proved himself to be a valuable asset to Paul and to the work of ministry. He proved his worth in very awkward and difficult situations. First, as a young convert, Titus was submissive enough to accompany Paul and Barnabas to the Jerusalem Council where the status of his conversion as an uncircumcised Gentile was the topic of discussion (Gal. 2:1-10). Second, Titus was courageous and diplomatic enough to deliver Paul’s second and very severe letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 7:6-7). Third, Titus was honest enough to play a key leadership role in collecting the offering for the Jerusalem church (2 Cor. 8:6-24). For these reasons Paul felt confident in charging and authorizing (“as I directed you”) Titus with the responsibility of setting in order the things which he was unable to complete in Crete “and” appointing “elders” in every city. The office of “elder” corresponds to the modern-day role of pastor. This was an urgent assignment because of the active opposition from the Judaizers (Titus 1:10).

1:6 namely, if any man be above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.
1:7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,

Paul listed the qualifications that were to be met before a man could be chosen as an elder or “overseer.” An elder must be a man “above reproach.” He must be a man of integrity who lives his life in a manner consistent with the will of God. An elder’s family life must give testimony to his ability to govern others in spiritual matters. His children must not be unbelievers or unruly prodigals. An elder must manage the affairs of the church with the understanding that, as a steward, he is accountable to God. He must not be “self-willed” or unwilling to listen to or regard others. He must not be “quick-tempered” or inclined to outbursts of anger. He must not be “addicted to wine” or behave like a drunken man. He must not be “pugnacious” or given to violence of action or speech. He must not be “fond of sordid gain” or eager to serve or use his office solely for the sake of making money.

1:8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,
1:9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.

On a more positive note, the overseer must be “hospitable,” willing to open his home and heart to strangers or those in need of safe lodging. Hebrews 13:2 stresses the importance of hospitality: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” The overseer must also be a lover of good in people and things. He must love people in Christ and for the sake of Christ. He must be “sensible” or levelheaded. He must be “just (committed to doing what is right), devout (committed to living a life pleasing to God), and self-controlled (committed to living a disciplined life).” In addition, an overseer was to be a doctrinally stable man capable of exhorting and defending the flock.

1:10 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,

The need for qualified godly leaders capable of teaching the flock and defending the faith was important because of the active opposition of “those who contradict” (verse 9). The word “many” suggests that the opposition was large enough to be of concern. Paul used three negative terms to describe the opposition. First, “rebellious men” or men who rejected the authority of the Gospel and the church’s leaders, even as the children in verse 6 rejected the authority of their parents. Second, “empty talkers and deceivers,” or men whose impressive rhetoric deceptively led people away from the truth of the gospel. Third, “those of the circumcision” or Jewish converts who insisted that the observance of Jewish ceremonial laws was necessary for salvation. The word “especially” suggests that the Judaizers were the chief source of opposition.

1:11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain.

The need for appointing qualified godly leaders was urgent because of the destructive impact of the opposition. They were “upsetting whole families.” Their teaching of things they should not teach had a harmful impact on family life. It is possible that these false teachers stealthily did their work house to house. These false teachers were also motivated by a shameful lust for profit. They extorted money from those they deceived. Paul declared that these false teachers “must be silenced” or “muzzled” by godly leaders qualified to exhort in sound doctrine. They were to be exposed and silenced by the powerful presentation of the truth.

1:12 One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”

Paul used the words of a 6th century B.C. Cretan philosopher and prophet named Epimenides to accentuate his description of the false teachers. They were “empty talkers and deceivers” (1:10) who taught things they should not teach (1:11) and so were “liars.” They were “rebellious men” (1:10) who upset whole families (1:11) and so were “evil beasts.” They were motivated by a desire for “sordid gain” (1:11) and so were “lazy gluttons.”

1:13 This testimony is true. For this cause reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith,
1:14 not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.

Paul declared that the words spoken by Epimenides were an accurate description of the false teachers. Paul thus demanded that Titus reprove them severely to the end that they completely abandon their false doctrines and “be sound in the faith.” The term “the faith” refers to the body of Christian truth or the gospel, which the false teachers contradicted. As opposed to “the faith,” the false teachers were fascinated by “Jewish myths” or fables about the Old Testament that had no basis in fact. They also were fascinated by the legalistic “commandments of men who turn away from the truth.” These commandments had no divine authorization.

1:15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.

Paul’s concluding remarks in the first chapter indicate that the false teachers were concerned about the observance of Jewish ceremonial practices such as dietary rules (commandments of men). Paul declared that those who are pure by virtue of their faith in Christ do not need to observe such practices. In addition, those “who are defiled and unbelieving” cannot be made pure by keeping such rules and regulations. The minds and consciences of those who held that the observances of such practices were necessary for salvation and Christian living were “defiled.”

1:16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed.

These false teachers professed to know God but denied Him by their actions. Their observance of religious rules, rituals, and regulations did not make them acceptable in the sight of God. Instead, these things marked them as “being detestable” in God’s sight, “disobedient” to the truth of the gospel, and “worthless for any good deed.” These religious men were far from the God they professed to know through their teachings and deeds.