October 11 — Titus 2 — Sensibly Controlled. In this chapter, Paul gave instructions to and about different groups of people in the church: to Timothy as a church leader (v. 1), older men (v. 2), older women (v. 3), younger women (v. 5), younger men (v. 6), and bondservants (v. 9). There was one specific instruction given four times to these groups, translated consistently as “self-controlled” in the ESV and “sensible” in the NASB (vv. 1, 5, 6, 12). Maybe “sensibly self-controlled” would be a good way to combine those ideas. It involves controlling both our minds and our emotions. We are not to be swayed easily by new ideas or tantalizing trends but should be stable in our thinking and acting.
October 12 — Titus 3 — Good Works. Paul makes it very clear in this chapter that we cannot be saved by doing good things but that God saved us by His mercy, “not because of works done by us in righteousness” (v. 5). After we have stepped into the “saved” category, however, we are to concentrate on doing good things to please God and help others: “…those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works” (v. 8). Two other times, Paul emphasized our need “to be ready for every good work” (v. 1) and for believers “to devote themselves to good works” (v. 14). Who in your circle of family or friends could use help from you today? Could you give them a ride, run an errand, buy something at the grocery store or pharmacy, mow a lawn, or bring over a meal? There are many people around us who could use some help and there are many of us who could meet those needs.
October 13 — Philemon 1 — Failed Influence. Even godly people like Paul and Philemon might be considered failures at properly influencing some individuals. Philemon was a wealthy man living in Colossae (Col. 4:9) with a house big enough to accommodate church meetings of believers (v. 2) and to provide a guest room for Paul (v. 22). But this church leader had a slave, Onesimus, who had not been influenced sufficiently by Philemon to surrender his life to Christ. Onesimus (meaning “useful”) ran away to lose himself in faraway Rome where God brought him to Paul, who did lead him to Christ. We are reminded also in this chapter that even Paul had someone under his influence who became a failure. At the close of this letter, Paul sent greetings from several people whom he considered “fellow workers” (v. 24), including Demas. Several years later, Paul wrote that “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me” (2 Tim. 4:10). Even under Paul’s strong influence and leadership, Demas turned out to be a failure. Are you considering yourself to be a failure because your son or daughter is not following Christ? Even under the best influence, some manage to resist. Don’t give up praying and don’t beat yourself up about it!
October 14 — Hebrews 1 — The Mystery Book. The book of Hebrews is unique in the New Testament. Unlike the way a normal ancient letter begins, this one doesn’t name the author or clearly identify the recipients. Some people believe that Paul wrote it in spite of its very different format, approach, and vocabulary. Others have suggested the author to be Barnabas, Clement, Luke, or Apollos. I have a friend who is writing a book to support his contention that the author was Silas. Hebrews is deeply rooted in the Old Testament, reminding us at the beginning that “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” (v. 1). In this opening chapter alone, he quotes seven times from Old Testament passages. Although its human author is a mystery and much of its content is unusual, it is a rich book from which we can gain great truths and insights. This first chapter emphasizes the superiority of Christ.
October 15 — Hebrews 2 — One of Us. Although He was the Son of God, He willingly “was made lower than the angels” (v. 9) and “partook of” the flesh and blood of the humans He created (v. 14), becoming Jesus, the Christ, our Savior. This brings to mind parts of a great hymn written in 1921 and later set to the music of “O Sole Mio”: