Shakespeare said, "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players." There are many players in the biblical story. In this grand play across time, with God as the great author of history, we are invited to see ourselves in the characters. There is one act in this grand play that stands above the rest: the great moment of the resurrection. But in this story, there are characters who have been neglected, forgotten, overlooked. Yet, they are the greatest source of inspiration. They are the women who stood by Jesus.

In this sermon, I examine Mark 16, suggesting that we should all emulate the women who stood by Jesus. We should be witnesses in God's grand story like the women were.

This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on April 21, 2019 (Easter Sunday).

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We’re given a story in our culture: We’re told what it means to live, what we should value. And then there’s the biblical story, which is in in sharp contrast to the story of culture. This makes authentic Christianity difficult to come by. Every Christian faces the challenge of discerning how to authentically live for Jesus. What is it that makes an authentic Christian? And how can we live as authentic Christians? How can our lives tell a different story, a better story? For the answers to these questions, we can look to Titus 2:1–5, which records some instructions Paul the apostle gave his young apprentice, Titus.

The Backstory of Titus on Crete

Paul had left his young apprentice Titus on Crete, to appoint leaders for the fledgling church(es) there and to inspire them to live authentically for Jesus. Crete is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, located southwest of modern Turkey. Paul wrote this letter at some point in the mid-60s AD, between his first and second Roman imprisonments.

In Titus 1:5–9, Paul has explained to Titus how to identify authentic Christian leaders, noting that they must be:

  1. Capable and respected;
  2. Loving, in all sphere of life (at home and publicly); and
  3. Experienced at living as a follower of Jesus (a true disciple of Jesus).
From here, Paul told Titus how to discern the difference between a truly Christian leader and a trend seeker, by explaining what inauthenticity looks like (Titus 1:10–16).

    In Titus 2:1–15, Paul now tells Titus how to minister to specific people groups on Crete, explaining what each of them will need to hear. From these very specific instructions, rooted in the cultural issues on Crete, we can derive some principles for how to authentically live as Christians and then apply these principles to our present circumstances, to our lives.

    How to Find Sound Doctrine

    In Titus 2:1–5 (NIV), Paul says to Titus: 

    You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

    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. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

    Paul first reminds Titus of the value of sound doctrine, which can be defined as that which is consistent with the gospel message—of Jesus’ saving act on the cross and his resurrection—and with the teachings of the apostles (Titus 2:1; compare 1 Timothy 1:10). Paul gives to Titus here a principle that is applicable to all situations: If you want to know how to live, look to the Bible as your guide.

    From here, Paul turns to what he believed older men on Crete needed to hear (Titus 2:2). In the first-century AD, “older men” would have referred to those over age 50. From this advice about "older men," we can learn how to live sound doctrine.

    4 Disciplines for Christians to Live By

    From Paul's instructions about teaching "older men," we see four practices or disciplines emerge:

    1. Temperance, that is the ability to be restrained or not give into extremes. (This seems to imply even consumption habits, such as alcohol [compare Titus 2:3].)
    2. Respectable, or worthy of respect.
    3. Self-controlled. This aligns with Paul’s instruction that younger women live pure lives (Titus 2:4).
    4. Sound in faith, knowing and practicing the values of Jesus. This is shown in how we love and what we endure.

    The recommendation of Paul for older women is similar to that for older men (Titus 2:3). Likewise, Paul reflects the value of garnering respect in the teachings he offers for younger women (Titus 2:4–5), which in his context would have been women between the ages of 20 and 30, but this also seems to be a general reference to women younger than the older women group (over age 50). In Paul’s first-century context, the values he gives for young women would have all been cultural norms; Paul’s concern seems to be that violating a cultural norm so central to Graeco-Roman culture would have brought unwanted scrutiny to the fledgling church.

    What the 4 Disciplines for Christian Life Teach

    What these four values or disciplines show us is that at its core, Christianity is not just about belief, about a commitment to a set of religious standards; it is also about practice. It’s about what we do with our time, resources, and energy. Christianity is not just about what’s coming, going to heaven, but about the now—what we will do with the fact that heaven has come to earth in the personhood of Jesus, the one who suffered, died, and rose on our behalf. What will we do with sound doctrine? That’s the question of Paul for us.

    What Will You Do with Sound Doctrine?

    Jesus came to reclaim our entire lives. About this, Paul elsewhere says: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1–2 NIV).

    This reminds me of a line from the band All Sons and Daughters song “Dawn to Dusk”:

    Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender

    We come before you [and] lay our burdens down

    We look to you as our hearts remember

    You are the only God

    You are our only God.

    So let us surrender, lay our burdens down, and embrace the open arms of the God of the universe. Let us authentically live our beliefs.

    This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."

    Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

    Over 500 years before Jesus came in flesh, a prophet proclaimed that one would suffer, die, and rise again for the sin of humanity. It was also prophesied that the resurrection of a Suffering Servant would lead to resurrection for every single person. Here is the gospel according to Isaiah and Daniel. This is Easter proclaimed 500 years before Jesus came in flesh.

    In this sermon, I utilize the research from my first book, The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, to explore Isaiah 52:13–53:12.

    This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday).

    Subscribe now to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

    How often have we thought that we know exactly what God needs? Or that we understand what God is doing, just to realize later that we were mistaken? That's what happened with the crowds who welcomed Jesus on Palm Sunday; and with King David, who thought that God needed a temple. 1,000 years before Jesus, Nathan prophesied to David that God had different plans. Those plans centered on an eternal king. Those plans prophesied Palm Sunday.

    In this sermon, we examine 2 Samuel 7:1–17, an ancient prophetic text that points to Jesus. This sermon was originally delivered at Faith Reformed Church in Lynden, WA on April 14, 2019 (Palm Sunday).

    Subscribe now to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

    Love and religion should go hand in hand. But, as we well know, religion is often used for hate. What does a better ideal of religion look like? For Jesus of Nazareth, religion meant self-sacrificial love. God is love.

    This talk was delivered on April 22, 2017 (Earth Day) in Ithaca, NY at the "Believe in Love" Conference. I was invited to speak on the topic of "Love and Religion." You can also read the transcript version of the my "Love and Religion" talk here on the Jesus' Economy Blog.

    Subscribe now to the Jesus' Economy Podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

    How are we to distinguish authentic Christian leadership from those who are trend seekers? How are we to know what’s proper engagement with culture and what is simply emulating culture? How are we to discern these matters as Christians?

    There's a Problem in the Church

    There are many people who pretend (or feign) that that they are Christian leaders. Think of the type of people who pretend like they are seeking the betterment of a church while they are really interested in building their own platform. These type of people are sure to be in all the right places at all the right times and are always quick to offer their piece of input or advice. But we all know what many of these people are really about: They are seeking some sense of belonging or power and because they lack maturity, they ultimately cause harm to other people.

    This problem isn't new. In Paul’s letter to Titus, he offers some brilliant advice for distinguishing between authentic Christian leaders and trend seekers. He directly connects this advice to how Titus should distinguish people who are ready to be Christian leaders from those who are not (see Titus 1:5–9).

    “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.’ This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:10–16 NIV).

    False leadership (or power seeking) can come in many forms but Paul tells us to be on the lookout for three particular kinds.

    1. Look Out for Legalism

    Historically, in Titus 1:10–16, Paul first refers to those who want all Christians to act like Jewish people (the circumcision group; see the letter of Galatians for a detailed account of this). In today’s context, we would call these the legalistic people—those who want to distinguish what is Christian and what is not purely on the basis of outward signs or actions. Paul tells Titus to silence this group and substitute in truth.

    2. Look Out for Laziness

    After discussing legalism in Titus 1:10–16, Paul then looks to those who are lazy, which may include some people in the first group. Here he cites a common proverb of some sort. Paul is not being racist here, but instead is joking in jest. But there is a truth here we need to remember: trend seekers are rarely willing to work hard for the betterment of a community. Be suspicious of people who are quick to take advantage of resources but not so quick to work to grow the church (compare 2 Thessalonians 3:6–10).

    3. Look Out for Mythology

    Finally, in Titus 1:10–16, Paul looks to Jewish mythology—or perhaps re-references the impositions being imposed upon non-Jewish Christians by Jewish people. He critiques this too. In today's world, we can think of those who become obsessed with a particular worldview or brand of theology to the point that it becomes the only measure for truth in their mind.

    Define Your Life around the Gospel

    In this, Paul shows us how easy it is to be led astray and to misunderstand God and his ways. When this happens, everything in our lives becomes corrupted. Wrong beliefs, then lead to wrong actions. We cannot claim to know God and not live completely what he is calling us to do.

    We must define our entire lives around the saving work of the gospel. This is what is good and "pure." We must show other people that we need God and God alone and declare that only he can truly save.

    This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."

    Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

    How was Jesus poor and why did he become poor? Why would God come into the world as a man in poverty? Paul the apostle provides an answer.

    “But just as you excel in everything—in faith and in speaking and in knowledge and with all diligence and in the love from us that is in you—so may you excel in this grace [of giving generously] also. I am not saying this as a command, but proving the genuineness of your love by means of the diligence of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, for your sake he became poor, in order that you, by his poverty, may become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:6–9 LEB).

    In making the case for living graciously and generously, Paul pulls in the example of Jesus. He states that Jesus became poor for the sake of the world. The implications of this for our lives cannot be overstated.

    How Was Jesus Poor?

    The first level of Jesus’ poverty came in his decision to become a human (see Philippians 2:5–11). When Jesus decided to become human he moved from being crowned in glory in heaven to being mortal. He went from being able to move like a spirit to being stuck in flesh. But Jesus took it on gladly, for our sake.

    Jesus took on poverty for our sake. He even became poor in a very ordinary way: He grew up in poor Nazareth and was a traveling preacher, who was basically homeless (see Luke 9:57–58).

    If Jesus had not chosen to become human, he would not have been able to save us. If Jesus had not become physically poor, he likely would not have been as effective as a minister. Even in his poor appearance, Jesus was an attractive teacher—a stark contrast to the rich teachers of his day (compare Isaiah 53:1).

    What the Poor Understand that the Rich Do Not

    Jesus understood that it was through enduring poverty that he was able to reach and save humanity. On his way to dying for the world—on the cross—Jesus became a poor man. Those of us with much must realize how incredibly far we actually are from the state Jesus lived in. We must also keep in mind that our poor neighbors understand many things about Jesus that we do not.

    This is why Jesus says things like, “Blessed are the poor, because yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20 LEB). The Macedonians, who Paul talks about just before the above passage in 2 Corinthians, gave out of their poverty because they understood what it meant to be in need (see 2 Corinthians 8:1–5). The wealthy Corinthians had a harder time seeing the perspective of the kingdom of God and hence Paul's not so subtle rebuke.

    If Paul was alive today, he would probably remind us of the exact same thing he brought up to the Corinthians: be gracious in your giving and your lifestyle, for Jesus was incredibly gracious to us. Do what you can for those in need. And spread the good news of Jesus at all cost (compare James 1:27).

    How does Paul’s perspective on Jesus, giving, and poverty change your perspective? Drop me a comment, I would love to hear from you.*

    Want to go deeper into this subject? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

    *This article is adapted in part from my earlier article, "What Saint Paul Wants You to Understand about Jesus and Poverty."

    If we want to understand what God desires in a leader (or any Christian for that matter), we need look no further than the book of Titus.

    Near the beginning of Titus, Paul says why he had previously left Titus in Crete. While the book of Acts doesn’t fill is in on the details of when Paul planted a church in Crete, and when he left Titus there, we know from the letter to Titus that Paul saw this venture on the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean as critical. While explaining why he left Titus on the island, Paul gives us a glimpse into his view of Christian leadership, saying:

    “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:5–9 NIV; compare 1 Timothy 3:1–7).

    The 5 Attributes of a Christian Leader

    In Titus 1:5–9, Paul tells Titus that anyone who assumes a church office should have five attributes:

    1. be a respectable person
    2. who knows how to teach others in the ways of Jesus,
    3. who knows how to love their family and others well,
    4. who doesn’t do things that are clearly against Jesus’ teachings,
    5. and is not a recent convert to Christianity (i.e., been a Christian for awhile).

    It also makes sense for people who have the role of overseer to have the ability to do what Paul calls "discern spirits"—to protect the church from heretical teachings is a critical function of church leaders (see 1 Corinthians 12:10; Titus 1:10–16). This could also be defined as an orthodoxy filter and concern for the church staying on track.

    3 Descriptors of Christian Leaders

    If I were to narrow the above list to three overarching attributes or principles, these three could cover all of the above: 

    1. Capable and respected teacher (with discernment)
    2. Loving, in all spheres of life (at home and publicly)
    3. Experienced at living as a follower of Jesus (a true disciple of Jesus)

    Now what I’m not saying here is that these are requirements for God to call a leader. All leaders depend on the grace of God; and God clearly calls the unexpected (e.g., Paul himself; Moses; David). I'm also not saying that a person who falls outside of these requirements is immediately disqualified—again grace and a repentant heart is central. Instead, these are requirements for someone to actually take a leadership position. These are the general rule we look to.

    Live the Christian Principles of Leadership

    Shouldn’t we all strive to these principles? Imagine what could occur in our world if we lived as people who were capable and respected, loving in all we do, and who experienced Jesus daily.

    If we lived Christian principles of leadership, people would certainly wonder, “What is it that makes this person who they are?” They would ask you about the faith you cling to. You would make a true and lasting difference in our world, living as a true missionary for Jesus in everything you do.

    This article is part of our series, "How to Authentically Live as a Christian: Paul's Letter to Titus."

    Enjoy this article? Check out my new book, Jesus' Economy: A Biblical View of Poverty, the Currency of Love, and a Pattern for Lasting Change. With simple, everyday choices you can make the world a better place. Learn how to live Jesus' economy, the currency of love.

    “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” 

    This proverb is a good start, but ultimately inadequate. We must do more than just feed the poor and teach them how to put food on the table. We must walk with the impoverished through the process of coming out of poverty—as their friends. And then, we must connect them to the right resources, so that their livelihoods are sustainable.

    What if there aren't enough fish?

    We must do more than teach the man to fish—we must fish with him for a while to see what the fishing is like. And then, we must ensure that the fish will always be around. This means connecting people to a larger pool of fish. It means considering not just local economies but the global economy.

    When we consider how to best help those who are hurting, we have to think through not just the immediate problems but also the long-term difficulties. We should be asking questions like: How can I help someone not just build a business but be connected to a global marketplace?

    So we could say the proverb should be revised to:

    “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and connect him with the best fishing holes and you feed him for a lifetime.”

    But what if the fishing is ruined by the environment or what if people steal the man's fish? How can we fix those types of problems? Our proverb may need even further revision.

    Life is about more than fishing

    Life is about much more than “learning how to fish.” If you teach a person to fish, but don’t meet their other basic needs, they will continue to struggle. It's not good enough to have fish to eat if I don't have clean water to drink or a medic clinic where that can care for my wounds.

    Also, if you teach a person to fish but don’t help bring ethical standards to their community, their society will eventually fall apart. The good work will be undone.

    There are deep rooted problems in society and these problems are ultimately spiritual. Corruption can destroy any good work. That's where ethics and thus healthy churches come in. We have to change the environment we live in if we want to see lives changed. We have to change the society.

    "I will make you fishers of men."

    And let’s also not forget what Jesus taught us about fishing in general: We are to do more than meet needs—we must lead people into God’s kingdom and the lifestyle that kingdom demands. Jesus' earliest disciples were fishermen and look what he said to them:

    "And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' They immediately left their nets and followed Him" (Matthew 4:18–19 NKJV).

    Perhaps, then, we need to revise the proverb once more:

    “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and connect him with the best fishing holes and you feed him for a time. Join a man in lifting his society out of spiritual and physical poverty and he will never be hungry again."

    Although, often the "man" you find will turn out to be woman, whom we should never hesitate to empower. She can lift her entire family out of poverty. Thus the proverb is just as accurate when it reads as follows:

    “Give a woman a fish and you feed her for a day. Teach a woman to fish and connect her with the best fishing holes and you feed her for a time. Join a woman in lifting her society out of spiritual and physical poverty and she will never be hungry again."

    Let's look at the whole picture

    We need to do everything we can to look at the entire picture: the spiritual and physical problems affecting people. I believe this is how we empower people to overcome poverty. This is what creating a new, spiritual and physical economy for those who need it most is all about. This is what creating Jesus' economy is about.

    I hope this article inspires you to do more than teach a man to fish. I hope you decide to really love someone today. Walk with people on their way out of poverty and work with them towards sustainability. Help instill biblical ethics into their community. In the process, I am betting that you will find—as I have—that it alleviates some of your own spiritual poverty.*

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    *This article is based in part on my previous article, "Moving Beyond 'Teach a Man to Fish'."

    It is easy to get so caught up with our own problems that we neglect to notice the needs of other people. Giving changes this. It makes us hopeful. It changes our perspective. It makes our problems seem manageable.

    Paul the apostle recognized the power of giving to change our perspective on life:

    "The one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:6–8 NRSV).

    The key to changing our world starts with you and it starts with me. It requires generosity. And when we give generously, we may just find that the gift returns to us in the form of joy, a renewed perspective, and a deeper relationship with Jesus.

    Giving Has Renewed My Faith

    When I think of the power of giving, I come back to how the founding of Jesus' Economy has changed my life. I'm a completely different kind of Christian because of this cause of creating jobs and churches in the developing world. Jesus, by his grace, has shown me how generosity is a gift to my life. It has renewed and strengthened my faith. It has also brought me immense joy, as I have seen God work through the efforts of Jesus' Economy to renew communities.

    People around the globe are in desperate need of our help. They’re suffering from issues outside of their control, but many that are changeable. When we walk alongside them, we can create opportunity out of these seemingly hopeless situations. We can find, and offer, solutions. I believe that now more than ever.

    The Incredible Possibilities of Giving Today

    We live in an interconnected world with incredible possibility: We have an opportunity to bring goodness and peace to the lives of others. There is a better future ahead for all of humanity, if we make it possible. What if the future could look different than the trajectory humanity is currently on? What would you want it to look like?

    I want to see love, peace, and hope. I desire to see poverty alleviated, so that people can live freely and with purpose—so that they can accomplish good for other people in the world. I long for Jesus to become a major part of people’s lives, because I know the difference he has made in my life and the lives of others. I want to watch transformation in ethics and lifestyles occur. I want to see entire communities renewed. How about you?*

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    *This article is adapted in part from my earlier article, "What Does a Better World Look Like to You?"